Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Character's Class Schedule: Detention

Detention: Characters Who Break the Rules
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how authors break the rules in writing. Then more recently, I stumbled onto this blog post at Wicked Tricksy that talks about the same thing (in a much more intelligent way than I did. XD).

It’s fairly common knowledge that writers break the rules all the time, but in this last segment of a Character’s Class Schedule, I want to talk about characters who break the rules.

To my way of thinking, there are three main types of rule-breaking characters.

Characters who break good rules for good reasons: They sneak out after curfew, drive without licenses, disobey their parents/guardians/mentors, but they’re not really bad kids. Circumstances drive them to break the rules – to lie, steal, and disobey – all for the greater good.

After all, it’s not their fault that the evil ceremony can only be stopped at midnight, and it happens to be taking place miles away. And even though their fearless protector told them he’d be ‘fine’ on his own, we all know he’s going to get captured and tortured unless our little rule-breakers step in.

And then we have our innocent men and women, framed for crimes they didn’t commit. If they’re ever going to clear their name, they’ll have to run from the police.

The character Benjamin Gates in the movie National Treasure once said, “The only way to protect the Declaration [of Independence] is to steal it.”

Sometimes, impossible situations like that arise, and there’s no alternative but to break the rules. It all comes back to that choice between the Action and the Unthinkable (like I talked about here ).

These characters aren’t bad people, but they have no other options. They either act, or they die, period. The legality of those actions is insignificant.*

*in fiction, people. In real life, the legality of actions is very, very important. XD

Characters who break any rule, usually for bad reasons: Often these characters play the role of an antagonist, but there’s also a fair share of them on the side of the hero (or who are the hero). Note that these characters don’t have to be the embodiment of evil. This category can also be broken up into two subdivisions.

First, we have our Captain Jack Sparrows. Our Ferris Buellers. These often frivolous, charismatic, and street-wise mischief-makers might be scraping out a life going from stolen meal to stolen meal, or they might just be shirking their responsibilities. Whatever the case, their tendency to break rules stems mostly from the fact that they just don’t care, or the rules don’t make sense to them. They think they have a better way, or that the rules just don’t apply to them.

Then we have the darker side of the spectrum. Our super villains. Our Jokers. Our Voldemorts. They break the rules without a second thought, or even go out of their way to break the rules. They reject societal standards, and they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. Legality has nothing to do with it. Sometimes, these characters are the embodiment of evil. At the very least, they’ll feel like the embodiment of evil to our main characters.

Unless of course they are our main characters. >:)

Characters who break bad rules, for good reasons: Chances are, these are some of the first characters you thought of, especially with all the examples that are honored in today’s world. I’m not just talking about Katniss, from The Hunger Games, although she is a good example.

Just think of our history. People who dared to hide Jews from the Nazis. People who dared to guide escaped slaves to freedom. People who dared to sign the Declaration of Independence.

To quote the character Ben Gates once more – “To high treason. That's what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration. Had we lost the war, they would have been hanged, beheaded, drawn and quartered, and-Oh! Oh, my personal favorite-and had their entrails cut out and burned! … So, here’s to the men who did what was wrong, in order to do what they knew was right.”

These are the characters who dare. The ones who will oppose the wrong rules to their dying breath, even if doing so means that last breath might come sooner.

They’re the martyrs. The revolutionaries. The heroes that will grow into legends and find their way into the history books.

Three categories. Lots of examples. Lots of characters for us to become involved with.

Think about your characters. Which category would they fit into? Do they follow the government and society’s rules, or make their own? Would they ever break their own rules?

Your (optional) homework assignment: Make a list of rules for your writing. They could be your generic “Don’t kill, steal, etc.” or they could be rules unique to your world, or your characters. They could be unspoken societal norms, like “Don’t mention the kings that came before this one.” Whatever you want. Just make a list. Then think about which of your characters would break those rules, and what the legal/social consequences would be if they broke those rules.

Did I miss a category? Or an example that’s especially representative or one of the rule-breaking classes?

And with this, class is dismissed. :) Thanks for reading. More posts coming soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Character's Class Schedule: Physical Education

Physical Education: Action & Movement & Monotony? XD

You wanna know something I’ve noticed about epic quests that involve traversing plains, mountains, and deserts to rescue an imprisoned princess or retrieve the Ultimate Magic Object?

They all involve a lot of walking.

Characters are constantly struggling to get from Point A to Point B, whether the gap between the two is made up of physical distance, or the more intangible divider of Time, or all the mundane things that need to happen before the story can move forward.

Example: The Main Character needs to descend into a seemingly bottomless canyon, rescue the love of her life, and then live happily ever after.

The Mundane Obstacles: First, she needs to climb a ladder. A really, really long ladder. Then she needs to find the tunnel where the love of her life is being held. And there are lots of tunnels down there that look exactly the same. And then of course there’s the matter of climbing back up the really, really long ladder.

Most obstacles like this only get a couple of lines at the start or finish, and then a time jump to skip over the Mundane, but there are certain things that you can’t always avoid. If your characters travel a lot, they’re going to be doing a lot of walking.

A lot of walking.

And this isn’t like the movies, where you can just play a musical montage to move things along lickety-split.

Speaking as someone who’s currently in the process of revising a ‘Quest’-ey type of novel, I am more than familiar with growing monotony (my sea-faring characters don’t do much walking, but they do a lot of riding in boats). A time jump or a montage to skip over it all would be lovely, but unfortunately there are things that I need to happen in that span of time where nothing really exciting is going on.

My main characters need to grow closer together as a group. They need to have important conversations. They need to sink deeper into dedication for the mission they’re on.

I can’t just make them set sail from their home country all disjointed and doubtful, then slip in a scene transition to three weeks later and automatically have them united, excited, and eager. I want to show that development, and for that I need to show the monotonous stuff.

And that’s the key, isn’t it? Making things happen, even when the only physical action taking place is walking, or sailing, or riding horseback through field after field. We can’t just poke our heads in at every monster attack or enemy war machine in their path.

So how to make the repetitive, boring, monotonous scenes more interesting?

I’ll let you know once I figure it out for myself.  -_-

But here are a few tips that I’m going to try to apply to my own writing:

Conversations & Character Development: If you need your characters to talk, make them talk as they walk down the road. Show us growing changes in the characters, and let us listen in on a character’s thought process during the journey. Don’t your thoughts ever wander when you’re on the road, or mowing the lawn, or in the shower? Your characters’ thoughts will be wandering too, and hopefully they’ll be a little deeper than, “Left foot. Right foot. Step. Step. Watch out for that little rock.”

Background Entertainment: If you watch movies, chances are you’re familiar with this method. Characters are going about their business, walking or driving along the road on a long trip, everyone too tired to really say anything, when the character in the back does something hilarious. Their mount tries to devour their clothing or hair. They suffer continuous torture a la the local insects. They regale their traveling companions with every song they even kinda know. In my better last post I talked about how little happy or humorous moments can break up Scenes of Eternal Despair? Well, they can also break up Scenes of Eternal Boredom.

Word Choice: It can even make a trip to the grocery store sound exciting (“I lunged for the solitary carton of orange juice, fending off the advances of an elderly woman bound and determined to get her daily serving of citrus.”) See, here’s the thing, folks. In our day to day lives, we don’t just ‘walk’ or ‘look’ or ‘go’ places. We laugh, we cry, we beg, we sing, we gamble, we yell – and we walk.

Even if your characters are ‘just’ walking, that’s not all that’s going on. Things are happening. Big things, little things, serious things and hilarious things. As the saying goes, “It’s not where you’re going. It’s how you get there.”

And finally, one last tip that I probably should’ve come up with before writing the rough draft of the novel I’m currently revising.

Don’t Let the Journey Get Monotonous in the First Place: Don’t give your characters more than a few seconds or a single evening to relax before the next obstacle has them on their feet and moving again. Let each obstacle bring them to the foot of the next obstacle, and let that carry them all the way to their goal.

My only problem at the moment is figuring out how to do that while covering a time period of weeks, if not months. >:|

Also, a tip for the bloggers among you. If you decide to do a series of blog posts following a certain theme, and you announce those themes beforehand, I recommend having the posts written first, or you may find yourself not as interested/helpful in the topic as you thought you’d be. And then you might go off on a tangent that you weren’t thinking of when you came up with a title for the thing. XD

So. The following questions aren’t just a conversation starter. They are honestly things that I’m trying to figure out in my own writing at the moment. Help? XD

Have your characters ever gotten bogged down in some mundane, but necessary activity? How do you avoid putting them in such situations, or how do you take them through one without making things boring? Any tips for me on this subject? XD

And, finally, the (optional) homework assignment: Write a scene describing a mundane activity (a long trip either walking or in the car, shopping for groceries, mowing the lawn) and make it interesting. :)

The next post will be better, I swear. XD

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Character's Class Schedule: Happiness Appreciation

Happiness Appreciation: Enjoying the Little Things

Ever had one of those days where nothing goes right?
Well, fictional characters have those days a lot.
Which is good! Part of being a writer is raising the stakes. Upping the action. Making the reader hang on your every heart-stopping word. We look at a scene and ask ourselves, “How can we make our main character’s day/week/life even worse?
We ruin our character’s lives on a regular basis, prying the things they love most from their fingers.
And if you don’t do this, dear readers, perhaps you should.
I repeat. This is a good thing. Not only does pushing characters into these situations force them into some serious character development, but it also grips the reader in ways that sunshine and birthday parties simply can’t.
When the character’s life – not to mention sanity – is hanging by a thread, those are the moments when a reader is on the edge of their chair, desperately turning pages, deep into the night no matter how early they have to get up the next morning.
These Scenes of Eternal Despair pop up everywhere. Your character is physically and mentally exhausted, deprived of food, sleep, and showers. He’s injured. Friends have died. Homes have burned. The whole world is against your main character, and even the few allies he started out with are starting to rethink their choice to stay with him (that is, if they even bothered to stick around this long).
A ‘happy ending’ seems out of the question.
Which is when you start to turn things around. But I’ll save that tangent for a future post on this topic that I have partially written already (it’ll no doubt be coming sometime after the Back to School series ends).
The focus of this lesson is on the happy moments within the despair. The tantalizing glimpses of hope that give your characters the will to go on living, and your readers the will to keep on reading.
You see, folks, while well-done Despair plots can be gripping, and exciting, and suspenseful to a reader, 200 pages of nothing but suck and injustice and tragedies would be enough to make anyone throw your book against the wall and seek out something cheerful and fluffy.
We like to feel sad or scared for a time (After all, there are whole genres for ‘The World is Ending’ scenarios).
But the bad needs to be broken up with good, happy moments that keep us smiling and waiting for the happy ending; it’s gotta show up sometime.
It could be something as simple as a butterfly at the sight of a battlefield, or it could be a reunion between old friends, or it could be a single triumph that reminds everyone that the character’s plan may not be so hopeless after all. It all depends on how dark you want your story to be.
Some common ways to Interrupt the Suck:
Humor – You could have the most depressing, bloody, murder-filled book in the world, but if you slip in just enough humor to make the reader smile from time to time, it should help keep the reader from getting so depressed that they give up on it entirely. However, you shouldn’t be too irreverent. Making light of the gruesome, traumatizing death of someone close to the MC or his acquaintances could very well make your reader angry or frustrated with the characters involved. Make sure your humor fits with your characters’ personalities. But for darker scenes, I recommend a somewhat darker humor. Allow me to recommend a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Beauty – Like I said. Butterflies on the scene of a battlefield. An ancient cathedral that somehow has remained untouched in the center of a warzone. Often dealing with a fair amount of symbolism, this method is less to make the reader smile, and more to stir the main character’s spirit. These are the flashes of hope that reassure everyone, things are going to get better. Eventually. Just not right away.
Characters – There are certain people – in this world, as well as fictional worlds  - who can dispel even the darkest moods. Maybe it’s their overwhelming optimism, or their great sense of humor (see above), or the way they know exactly what kind of pep talk will make things seem not that bad after all. Whatever it is, just the sight of this character is enough to lift your MC’s spirits (Unfortunately, this type of character often serves as the Sacrificial Lamb, dying for the sake of – again – making your MC’s day even worse. This is rather cliché… But it happens). In some cases, it has nothing to do with the character’s personality. If it’s someone the MC hasn’t seen in ages, or someone who was last seen going into a dangerous situation, just seeing them alive and well will be enough to give your MC a sense of relief (and give your readers a short breather).
Triumph – A crucial victory. A petty victory. The sight of reinforcements on the horizon. A snappy comeback at exactly the right moment during an argument. Your MC finally gets a hint that his crush might return his affections. Even the little victories – like getting to ride shotgun, or managing to take a shotgun from the evil kidnappers – could be enough to make things seem a shade better than they did a few seconds ago.
So, what did we learn today, class? Scenes of Eternal Despair can be gripping. They can also be discouraging. To refresh the reader every so often, slip in a snippet of hope, or of humor.
Your (optional) homework: Write a Scene of Eternal Despair, where things just keep getting worse and worse (for one of your characters, or a scene for your novel, or a completely unrelated scene just for the practice). Incorporate a snippet of hope.
Have you written a Scene of Eternal Despair before? Can you think of any examples from books or movies?
(EDIT) Oh yeah, and one more thing. Those Scenes of Eternal Despair? They might not be so eternal after all. ;)

My First Blogging Award?! 8D

What’s this? An award?! *-*

Oh, my. This is so… So unexpected.

Really, it is. XD I still consider myself a baby blog, so the fact that Claudie A. decided to link to me is… Well. It’s quite flattering. >.<

Thanks, Claudie!

Now, I’m going to make this post quick and then try to get the next Character’s Class Schedule post typed out (since this ‘recess’ is growing a bit prolonged). But first, there seems to be some business to attend to…

(Note: Claudie answered pre-given questions on her post accepting this award, but I’ve also seen where the winner gives seven random facts about themselves. I think I’m going to do that. ^^)


1.       I have an uncanny ability to predict happenings/endings of movies and books, as described here. My family is not as appreciative of this talent as I am.

2.       I’ve been a participant of NaNoWriMo since I was about eleven or twelve, and for the past two years have been meeting the 50,000 word goal in 15 days. This past November, I took advantage of the pace to write two novels. Simultaneously. One is awful. The other is on my Revision desk. :)

3.       I am a pastor’s daughter. The kind that doesn't really swear, or smoke, or drink, or engage in the other stuff that 'rebellious' pastors' kids are allegedly supposed to do. XD I won't shun someone offendedly if they do these things, but... I, personally, have no desire to. *shrug*

4.       I have written at least four or five novels, but none have moved beyond a tentative amount of revision (which I hope to fix in the case of the aforementioned NaNo novel). I’ve also written a number of short stories, some better than others, and one of them in particular I might look into submitting somewhere. To something. We’ll see. XD

5.       Tunnels always show up in my stories. No idea why. The same thing happens with kings and queens, government and politics in general, couriers, ambassadors, etc… But I still can’t figure out what it is about tunnels that show up in everything I write. *sigh*

6.       I am an American. I am 99% Dutch (but can’t speak a word). I’m in Spanish 3 at school. And I love, love, love manga and Japanese music, which I listen to online all the time.

7.       I fluctuate between being very shy, and very  not shy. In real life especially.

                Now, as for blogs I follow and highly recommend (AKA, passing on the award)…

                The Bookshelf Muse: A fabulous resource for emotions, body language, settings, and all the other stuff that we writers sometimes struggle to think up. (

                The Last Word: The oft-hilarious C.J. Redwine fills her blog with guest authors, giveaways, and Sporks of Doom. I recommend you check it out. :) (

                J.A. Lynn: Her blog may be new, but after connecting with her on Twitter we’ve already had some great discussions, and I’m already enjoying her insightful blog posts. :) (

                Now, off to type out that Character’s Class Schedule entry. ^^

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sparkfest: Ted Dekker Exaltations, Continued.

To my usual readers, if you were looking for my next post in the Character’s Class Schedule series, I’m afraid that won’t be coming for another few days. Consider this recess, as I answer a couple of questions. It’s all a part of the Spark Blogfest, which you can find here.

“What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?”

                I am seventeen. I started writing when I was… eight? Something like that. When you consider my life in terms of percentages, I have been writing a very long time. As a writer, I assume that you can assume I read quite a bit, which is what makes answering questions like these so difficult. Lots of books and authors scramble up to the front of my mind.

                The Magic Tree House series must’ve been among my first influences; my first ‘books’ totally ripped it off, after all. Then there was Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, introduced by my mother’s voice at bedtime even as the books themselves introduced me to fantasy. When I was older, Tamora Pierce and Scott Westerfeld taught me about creating worlds real enough to step into in my dreams.

                But if there’s one author who I know, without a doubt, has influenced my life as a writer, it would have to be Ted Dekker. Changed my world view? Yup. Set off sparks of inspiration? On more than one occasion, yes. Made me realize I was doomed to be a writer? Indubitably.

                I’m not sure how old I was when I read the Circle trilogy series (there are four books, now). And I’m not sure how old I was when I read one of his other books and first started to piece things together…

                But the first time I noticed the connections between characters, and plot points, and seemingly random lines in the narrative, I’m pretty sure my reaction was something like this:

                O.O He can DO that?!

                Yes, boys and girls. He can do that.

                Ted Dekker has a very interesting style – one that I think you either love or you hate – but I have yet to find an author that can weave together plots, characters, and worlds as masterfully as he can. It goes beyond incorporating something from the first page into the final climax. It involves incorporating information from the first page of a book in another series and twisting things together so subtly that you’d have to read all his books in one sitting to catch all the connections. Even then you might miss something.

                I’d never seen a writer do that before, and I haven’t seen a writer do it like that since. Ted is one of the few writers that can still surprise me at every turn, and make me jump up and down squealing every time I catch something new.

                To give you a sense of what I’m talking about, allow me to tell you the names of three of his villains. Marsuvees Black, from one of his trilogies, Sterling Red from a stand-alone book, and Barsidious White from another stand-alone book that he co-wrote with another author.

                And what were the titles of the books in the original Circle trilogy?

                Black. Red. And White.

                Are you beginning to see what I’m talking about here?

                I think Ted Dekker’s writing, and his masterful way of interconnecting things, is part of what made me develop into the extensive schemer I am today. I may not outline, but within two weeks of starting a novel I have the general plans for a four book series, right down to scraps of dialogue and future scenes. I’ve had people say that my style of writing reminds them of Ted’s, even before they knew I was a fan. In the middle of writing my own books, I’ve made plot connections that give me those same jumping-up-and-down feelings that I get when I read a good Dekker book.

                Ted Dekker set off the sparks that turned me into a schemer.  And since 84% of my writing process involves scheming… Well. I feel like I owe him a lot for opening my mind up to the possibilities of intertwining things. ^^

                Plus, the man can write a great serial killer story. :)
                P.S. To my usual readers, you probably already knew how I felt about Ted after this post. XD

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Character's Class Schedule: History

History: Background Information
Think of a book that takes place in a different kind of world. Far-off fantasy lands, or far-off futures. Chronicles of Narnia or Hunger Games. Pretty much any dystopian novel you’ve ever read. Any fictional world that’s very different from our own.
Now what made them turn into such a different world?
What brought two countries to the brink of war? What events turned the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Where did the Creature of Ultimate Darkness come from?
Most novels at least touch on the answers to questions like these. Some devote a whole book to the subject. (Want to know how the world of Narnia came to be? Just read The Magician’s Nephew!)
There are stories that played out before Chapter 1, nestled someplace between the front cover and the first sentence. Stories that shaped the world into a perfect setting for the rest of the story. The author can’t always go into these histories, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t present.
A word here. A sentence there. A battered old memorial in the square of a city called War-torn. All of these things and more can allude to the stories that came before, and show the reader those reasons that rest below the surface.
Cliché Example Time: Elves and Dwarves hate each other.
Long ago, elves tired of the dwarves chopping down forests to get the lumber they needed for tunnel supports and tool handles. The elves stole all the dwarves’ equipment (along with a wealth of jewels and precious metals that the dwarves kinda want back) and began to guard the forests.
To get revenge, the dwarves stormed the forests and burned them down out of spite. Then the elves collapsed the dwarves’ tunnels. With that, the two races launched into generations of retaliation, hatred, and revenge.
But in our story, all the readers need to know is that they hate each other and believe they have legitimate reasons for hating each other (nothing should be pointless, kiddies).
We can get this across simply by using the following:
In an argument, a dwarf calls an elf a greedy, selfish, wood-hoarder.
In retaliation, the elf calls the dwarf a murderous forest-torcher.
The argument comes to a peak when the dwarf demands the return of the Ancient Stolen Jewels of Power.
With just three lines of dialogue, we already start to get the impression that there’s been an extensive, continuing conflict between these two races. We did it more or less without infodumping, and it gives the reader a better reason for these prejudices than “Uh, um… Because I said so” or “Because I need it for my plot to work.”
How does this relate to characters?
Sometimes they need to learn their history, too, just as much as the reader. Many fictional characters have rather unorthodox educations, if they have any at all. Some have led pretty sheltered lives, some may be familiar with certain aspects of history but not everything, and some perhaps just didn’t care enough to learn.
Does everyone in our world know of the events that led up to the American Revolution? Does everyone know how the American Revolution effected governments in countries around the world, like France? (Vlogbrothers provides a handy explanation of the French Revolution. :) )
Whether you’re discussing the real world or a fictional world, events in the past shape events in the present, which is why it’s so important to remember the past. Not to mention the whole idea of history repeating itself.
A layered history can add so much depth to a story, and to a world, and to a character. I mean, hello, Darth Vader and Gollum, anybody?
It can even add to a character’s motivations. Which character is more likely to fight for her people? An elf who hates dwarves  ‘because she’s supposed to’? Or an elf who hates dwarves because she knows how much injustice and death and cruelty there’s been in the past?
And, just another little hint: If your main character’s motivations are strong, that might help your reader’s motivations to keep reading.
Homework Assignment: Think about the world (or character) of your novel and think about how it got the way it is at the time of your story. Then write a summary/short story/ballad/whatever about that history. :)
This concludes our first lesson in a Character’s Class Schedule. What did you think? Good, bad? Helpful or not? I welcome your feedback as I try to work out my blogging style. XD I’m also still looking for suggestions of other classes that characters seem to take often, or any other subjects you’d like me to cover during this series.
I also welcome your feedback on how I should schedule this kind of thing. I’m posting this a day after the announcement because the announcement wasn’t exactly a blog post, but what kind of interval should there be between the other three? Every other day? Two days in-between? Any suggestions you have there would be more than welcome. :)
Thanks for reading! ^^

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back to School: A Character's Class Schedule. (Mini-series!)

     This past Tuesday, I went back to school.


     Math, science, and – horror of horrors! – gym class. Oddly enough, these aren’t the kind of things that fictional characters learn. Even in books that take place largely in a school setting, most of the information they’re ‘learning’ about is skimmed over quickly, if at all (except for maybe at schools like Hogwarts or the Gallagher Academy…).

      That’s not to say characters don’t learn, though. They tend to have their own kind of classes. Specialized classes, much more interesting than anything I see from school day to school day.

      And so, in the spirit of the season, this post is the introduction to a short series of posts following the theme of ‘Back to School’.

A Character’s Class Schedule

History: Background Information

Happiness Appreciation: Enjoying the Little Things

Physical Education: Action & Movement

Detention: Characters Who Break the Rules

      Considering my tendency to ramble, I’m thinking that dividing things up this way will help me to keep the posts shorter. So that this theme isn’t spread out across five weeks, I’ll be posting these smaller updates at somewhat shorter intervals, across a couple days instead of a week. ^^ Chances are, I’ll go back to Saturday updates after this series is over (and I might end it with another longer post on character development).

      For now, to tide you over, a mini-list of some Extracurricular Activities that fictional characters do tend to study:

    Sword Fighting, Archery, Combat, etc. – Whether they’ve been training their whole lives or pick up a sword for the first time on Page 1, lots of characters need to learn how to fight. One of my pet peeves is when they master this in a day, and are inexplicably able to beat people who’ve been studying their whole lives. I don't care if they're the Chosen One. It's a bit unrealistic, and a bit cliche (It's different if they have some backstory to support their expertise, as explained earlier in this post on Staying in Character).

     Magic – Similar to the above. How many times have we seen characters struggling to master their magical abilities? It’s one of those oft-used plots/subplots that sometimes falls flat, but when done well can feel as fresh as the morning breeze.

     Student Council – Leadership and authority, taking charge of a diverse crowd, and let’s not forget the wonder of one of my favorite subjects: Diplomacy! Politics can be tricky, and any character - from a Crown Prince in line for the throne to a Peasant-Turned-Princess caught up in a Cinderella Story - could use some time learning about social graces.

     And, inspired by another blog post I read a while back that I neglected to get the link to (DX Fail) here are some enjoyable books that take place in a school setting. ^^

     Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling – Do I even need to give a summary?

     Gallagher Girls, by Ally Carter – Private school for girls who are training to become spies? :)

     Looking For Alaska, by the hilarious John Green – I have not read this yet. But after seeing John’s vlogbrothers videos, I plan to.

     Um, lots of others. XD Most YA books at least touch on school, or learning. It’s part of being a teen, after all.

Any other ‘School’ books come to mind? Any other subjects that you see characters learning regularly throughout their novels? Any that you’d like me to add to the queue? What do you think of this series of blog posts, and the length/interval situation? I’m still kind of finding my blogging style, so any feedback is welcome. :)

Thanks! ^^

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winners! -- 2011 Blog Birthday Contest

Thank you to the five entrants. ^^ That's the highest number of comments I've received on one post, to be honest, and it feels good to know someone's reading. ;)

The winner is...


And, really, who could deserve it more? My first consistent commenter, always supportive, enthusiastic, and friendly. Congratulations. ^^

I also drew for second place. The prize is exactly the same as the prize for first place. XD


Come on down! ^^

Tanya (borntobeawriter), and McMourning, I'll be contacting you on Young Writers Society as well as here, so you'll be able to comment either here or there and tell me what you'd like your prize to be.

Again, your options are...

· A Review of a short story

· A Review of the first chapter of a novel

· A Thank You Sketch of some sort

· A Sketch Attempt at drawing one of your characters (A description will need to be provided for this, and I make no promises that you’ll like it, but I’ll do my best. XD
To the rest of you, thanks for participating. ^^ And Twit? Thanks for posting that section from LotR. I was hoping someone would. XD
Congratulations again to the winners! Keep writin'. ;)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stay in Character: How to Keep Your Characters' Reactions Believable

              If your Big Twist involves the happy little neighbor girl revealing her identity as the chainsaw-toting serial killer, then you’d better have planted some of those hints alluding to the darker side of her character. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a character do something so outrageously not them that you start to question if the author knows their character as well as you do.”

                Those were my thoughts in the last tip regarding The Twist in an earlier post. As I wrote it, I started to think maybe that needed some elaboration.

                It might sound simple at first. There are certain actions that would not be believable coming from a certain character. A sickly boy scared to leave his house might not be the right person to lead a rebellion against a cruel and vicious tyrant. Likewise, a cruel and vicious tyrant probably wouldn’t call off an invasion the moment a hero points out an orphanage full of innocent children sitting right in the war machine’s path.

                But there’s a difference between unbelievable actions and actions that point to character development.

                The key is to take an unbelievable action and make it believable, through the use of backstory, a character’s thought processes, and outside influences that give your character no choice but to act the way they do.

                Backstory: Let’s go back to our cruel and vicious tyrant. He’s a monster. Murderer of thousands, eats fluffy puppies for breakfast without a second thought, he is One Bad Dude. Obviously, he’s not going to lose much sleep over a hut full of lice-ridden orphans.

                But – to use one of the clichéd examples that are quickly becoming commonplace in these posts, for simplicity’s sake – what if our tyrant was an orphan himself? What if the kindly old owner of an orphanage he grew up in was the only person who ever showed him any kindness, and their murder was the tragic event that put him onto the path of violence in the first place?

                What if the orphanage in the path of his war machine was the same orphanage he once grew up in? The last remainder of all his deceased caretaker’s hard work over the years…

                Suddenly a desire to spare that little hut isn’t so unlikely now, is it?

                Certain events in the past shape the character of our characters (XD). I used Darth Vader as an example in the last post, so I’ll continue with that now. Think about what made him who he was. His mother killed, his occupation telling him that he can’t be with his wife, his whole world falling apart… It took a lot to bring him from a sweet little boy into a man in a black mask.

                But knowing what we know about his history, and the events that have shaped him, it’s not so hard to believe that he could change his ways at the last moment and sacrifice himself to save Luke.

                What makes it more believable? Backstory!

                Thought Processes: Logic can be a funny thing. What makes sense to one person might seem outrageous to another. This, my friends, is what allows stupid people to do stupid things. It makes sense to them, after all. Differences in the way people think is also what leads to comedy – unexpected outcomes.

                Take two drastically different characters, and put them in front of a stack of boxes. At the top is the Prize. The trophy. The thing they want most in all the world. One character will get all excited and gather up everything they can find, building their own teetering tower of possessions to try and reach their greatest desire…

                The other will tip over the whole stack and pick the prize up off the ground.

                One character thinks ‘Fight’. The other thinks ‘Flight.’ One character thinks optimistically, with confidence of success in everything they do. The other thinks pessimistically, and always takes the cautious path.

                With every choice put in front of your character, think about the way they think. If they’re outnumbered and outmatched, will they fight anyway, or surrender and plot for a later escape? Would they rather do things the easy way or the hard way? The simple way, or the complicated way? The efficient way, or the fun way?

                As a bonus, knowing how your character will react in a given situation will help you to get to know them in all other ways that help you make your characters deep, and believable, and real to a reader.

                Outside Influences: Sometimes unlikely people are put in unlikely situations… Mostly for the sake of comedy. A genetically modified superspy is forced to attend normal high school, or a sniveling little scaredy-cat is forced to save the world.

                What do both of these examples have in common? The word forced.

                Take away all your character’s options. Either they act, or they die. Period.

                Let’s bring back that sickly boy, who’s scared to step outside his front door. In his mind, war has nothing to do with him. He’d rather sit inside and fold his socks than go face our evil tyrant, and the thought of a wielding a weapon is enough to make him break out in hives.

                But if he lives in the orphanage that’s about to be crushed under the tyrant’s war machine… Well then, that changes things. His socks are in danger! Along with all the younger kids, and the people who’ve cared for him his whole life. And maybe his bold, adrenaline-junkie girlfriend, who’s taking up a weapon before they’ve even established the risks.

                If he wants to keep his girlfriend safe, or if he wants to keep her from going in the first place, then he’ll have to go, won’t he?

                Did Frodo have any choice besides bringing the ring to Mordor? Did Harry Potter have any choice but to fight against Voldemort and step into the role everyone expected him to take? Did Marlin have any choice but to leave his safe little home and go after his son Nemo?

                Eliminate all choices but two. Action, and the Unthinkable.

                In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

                Eliminate the Unthinkable, and whatever remains, however improbable, is the action your character must take.

                Know your characters. Know what they will do, and what they won’t do. Figure out what’s necessary to make them do something. Keep their actions believable, and you’ll save your readers a whole lot of frustration.

                What’s the most unbelievable thing one of your characters has ever done? Now what made them willing to do it?

                If you don’t have an answer, maybe it’s time to find one.
(Also, a reminder! The 8th was the first anniversary of the beginning of this blog, and in honor of that, I'm running a contest where if you comment on this post, you could win your choice of either a review for some of your writing or a sketch. More details in the aforementioned post. I was going to have it be a drawing... But honestly I'm thinking about giving everyone who comments either a review or a sketch, since the grand total so far is... Well... Two. XD We shall see. Thanks for reading!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Blog! (Contest/Prizes!)

Well, ladies and gents. It’s been a year since the Introduction. I was still calling myself ‘The Writer’ *facepalm* and had very little clue of what I wanted to do with this blog. The url was *headdesk*

                I’d never had a blog before, but I liked the idea…

                And now, a year later, I’ve been keeping up with weekly updates for a couple months now (has it been months? XD). I’ve changed the url to something that doesn’t have ‘blog’ in it three times. I’ve figured out that I want this blog to be for all writers as they live out the prologue of their own career, instead of just me. Hopefully the posts have been more helpful recently, and someone is getting something out of this blog. ;)

                I currently have nine lovely followers, and recently one’s been commenting! (Shoutout to you, Tanya. ;))

                Okay. It’s still a baby blog at this point. XD

                But I’d like to do something to thank everyone who’s been keeping up with me, whether they’ve been around from the start or just stumbled onto it recently.

                So, it’s giveaway time!

                Unfortunately, I’m poor and have zero connections. But I’m not a bad critic, if I do say so myself, (plus, feedback is always a good thing) and I dabble in doodling and artsy things like that…

                So, everyone who comments on this post will be entered in a lottery, and depending how many entries I get, the first/second name(s) I draw will have their choice of the following:

·         A Review of a short story

·         A Review of the first chapter of a novel

·         A Thank You Sketch of some sort

·         A Sketch Attempt at drawing one of your characters (A description will need to be provided for this, and I make no promises that you’ll like it, but I’ll do my best. XD)

I'm not sure it will work to link to reviews I've done on Young Writers Society, but I can link you to my sparsely-updated DeviantArt account, so you can see approximately what level my artwork is at. XD Don't forget to click my 'Scrapbook'. There are a couple of things there, too... Yeah. I haven't updated my DeviantArt account much. XD

Sound good? Hope so, cause I’m kind of excited about it, myself. ;)

Methinks I’ll leave this post open to comments for a week, and then I’ll close it and draw the winner(s) names.

As for what needs to be in the comment… Whatever you want! Thanks, Critiques, suggestions as to how I can make this blog better in the coming year, your favorite post or a reason that this blog has ruined your life… XD I don’t care what it is. You could copy/paste a selection from Lord of the Rings, and it would still get you entered in the drawing.

Looking forward to see how this contest works. ^^

Good luck! :)