See, this is the stuff that happens to me. I start a blog or a journal or whatever then I get bored with it. I shall try to press on.
Ohhhkay! Gonna talk about characters today! Yay! Really, they’re the most important part of your story. Well. I guess character and story go hand and hand. Because you won’t read a book that has a shitty premise with good characters and you won’t like a book with shitty characters but a good premise. Or maybe you will, I don’t know your life.
Anyway, sometimes making characters is hard. Sometimes you’ll have a story all set up but creating a plausible character escapes you. Or maybe you just can’t get a character right. It happens. It’s never happened to me because I’m awesome, but I’m sure it’s happened to others so you’re not some sort of character failing freak. No. I’m kidding. Maybe.
You have to know your characters well. They have to have more of a history than you do. Because you have to be able to put them in any situation and have them act in character. To do this, some people suggest a character bio. I, however, don’t like character bios. I think they’re kind of lame and unproductive. Just listing your characters’ likes and dislikes and hobbies and shit? You’re not setting them up on eHarmony. What I like to do is a character sketch. Which is basically writing them in a brief scene that reveals their nature. When I’m done with my sketch then I may or may not write down things about the character that I don’t want to forget, like some historical facts about them or whatever. But only after I have my sketch.
An initial character sketch will help you later on if you’re getting writing prompts. Personally, I don’t like in-class prompts that much because they’re usually really random (I had to write about what came to me when looking at an old football and I responded with playing around with my phone for 20 minutes and writing something shitty last minute because I HAD to.) and I think they’re difficult to do on the fly. But I’m not the type of writer who can write when you tell me to. Because I don’t like being told what to do. BUT after thinking about a prompt, they’re really useful for getting to know your character further. Obviously. You might think it’s useless to know what your character would say if he were thrown into a bear cage, however, it could perhaps give you insight on how your character acts under high pressure situations. I mean, your character should come across conflict in your story or you’re doing it wrong, so see how that would help?
Also, a lot of the time I make shit up on the spot when I’m asked about a character. For some reason I find it easier to remember details when I make them up in the heat of the moment. I do it all the time (It also impresses people, they think you know your character really well when you answer right away). And usually if it is the first thing you think of, it’s probably right. That’s why women don’t do well on standardized tests; they second guess themselves and change their first answer, which is usually the correct one. So. Fail.
When you don’t know your character well, it shows. Recently in class, I remarked that someone knew one of her characters more than the others, which made the scenes she wrote with the good character more entertaining and interesting.
(Tangent: why is it pea-khan instead of pea-can? There’s no letter in the spelling that would make the “khan” sound. Also, why to people pronounce car-a-mel as car-mul? There are 2 A’s. And the last I checked mel wasn’t mul. While we’re at it: sam-on? There’s an L! SAL-mon. English is so weird.)
Anyway, this person confirmed that the less interesting character was the one she found harder to write. So, it was suggested that she put the character is a compromising situation just so she’d know how he’d react and get it out of the way (in this case it was make the character have sex) so that question wasn’t hanging over her head. By avoiding the situation, she wasn’t letting herself get to know the character enough to write him well.
Now, for people having problems with place instead of character, this second half is for YOU!
Miraculously, I found out that I was doing something correctly when I asked Lou Ann Walker how one goes about describing a place that doesn’t exist. I mean, that sounds like it’d be easy, but it’s not. Well, not technically. Because the thing is, it has to be believable. Your reader has to see your fictional place and say to himself “oh yeah, that reminds me of that podunk town I had to pee in when I was driving across the country”. It can’t be vague because that will call attention to the fact that you made it up. Which will distract your reader. People read with visualizations, if they can’t visualized what you’re talking about, they lose interest. I can’t say I read that way, because I know I don’t since I’m always being told that my stories lack scene.
So I brought this question up in class a while back and, whoa ho, look whose writer costume is looking especially realistic. Yeah, that’s right bitches. Mine.
Lou Ann suggests you make a map of your fictional place.
Guess who did that about a month before asking the question?
Yeah, that’s also right, bitches. Me.
Okay, so how does this help? Well, if you know what shit looks like, it’ll be easier for you to write it. It might also hinder you, though. Because you’ll know it so well, you’ll forget that everyone else doesn’t. But if you’re good, you’ll get around that.
Anyway, I’m “tired” now. Hope that was informative.
Oh PS, Tell me some books to read. Rules: FICTION, no women writers, no fantasy if you can help it, and no YA. Aaaaand GO!