I started playing with this new character. His name is Reve. Well, technically, it’s Reve sau Callingbordon but we’ll just call him Reve.
I’ve now written almost three stories with him as a character. He’s fun to write about. He’s very quiet, doesn’t get angry easily, and works hard. His race also has this mental ability for sense just emotions, but it varies and his rating is really high, yet he doesn’t care about it. His father is dead, his mother is blind from a work accident and he has four younger siblings.
I’d give you more history, except what I keep doing with him is writing short stories about him. It’s fun. It’s, like, how did he get his original job? Or, what happened with his first assignment? Those kind of things.
One day a couple weeks ago, I was walking across campus. It was the early morning time, when it’s cool and crisp and just beautiful. I began to think about how his character would respond to walking across campus like that and from there, developed a story.
The basic idea went along these lines:
- He sees a girl being mugged. Fights off the guy and kills him. (This is well within his personality.)
- Turns out that the way in which he killed him was totally illegal. He didn’t know.
- Meets his lawyer, who basically gives him no hope and is totally clueless.
- Meets a psychiatrist, who figures out how much he didn’t know.
- Gets free from everything.
Can you see the problem with that?
Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. The problem is that Reve doesn’t do anything. For the majority of the story, he sits in prison. He can’t do any research, he won’t fight, and he’ll just do nothing.
I kept thinking about how I could change the story so that he does something but I couldn’t. He wouldn’t get mad at the decision of the court. and shout at them (or kill them). He wouldn’t try to escape. He would wait and see what happens. I basically wrote 5,000 words and didn’t know how to actually finish it in an interesting way. I was so stuck on this I almost wrote a blog post bemoaning my lack of inspiration in hopes it’d give me an idea.
I mentioned my problem in passing to my mom, partly because I drew an awesome pictures to go with it (that I was going to share but I can’t find my scanner) and it frustrated me I’d never get to use it.. She asked me what happens to the girl. What does the girl whose life he just saved do? And that started me thinking.
Now, I’d prefer to write it from Reve’s POV, because this will technically be a purple guard story. But Reve’s POV is boring. The girl, however, I can see her doing a lot. It’s a different POV, which makes it harder because I have to develop and understand a new character. Moreover, she won’t show up again that I can tell. Sure, they might develop some kind of friendship, but nothing lasting. Yet, by changing the POV, I can explore both a pivotal moment in Reve’s life, and the development of the mental ability that is found in these people.
It works. It makes it interesting. And, overall, I’m pretty excited about this development. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be written for a couple weeks yet.
However, this reminds me just how important it is to pick a good POV.When people (okay, at least myself) started writing, I’d always go with the obvious POV. This story is about XYZ happening to Jane Doe, so obviously the POV is Jane’s.
However, the more I experiment with writing, the more become away that the POV isn’t something you can randomly assign. The story changes depending on what POV you use. And sometimes that means changing the story in the middle to get the right POV.
So, have you ever noticed a situation where changing the POV propelled your story to completion? Would changing a POV help right now?
If you’ve been around, you realize that I have recently seriously pursued publication. Seriously as in I actually did something about it. It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a really, really long time since I began writing.
(Just to recap:
- Began writing a stupidly Star Trek story in 2002.
- Began writing in February 2003
- Submitted stuff to a writing contest in December 2003. (Which gave me 3rd place.) First time I allowed pretty much anyone to see what I wrote.
- Started role playing in spring of 2004.
- Somewhere here I began seriously writing my first novel.
- Gave up on first novel in August 2008 as being too difficult to fix all the holes and I wanted to write another novel.
- Wrote second novel’s first draft between August 2008 and December 2008. Began editing.
- December 2009 began this blog.
- Submitted some stuff to the college writing contest in January 2010 and lost.
- Submitted Just Trust Me in January 2011 and came in 3rd place in Spring 2011.
- March 2011 began another novel, mermaids.
- Finally finished a synopsis in December 2011.
- Submitted Shad for publication in Feb 2012 along with Just Trust Me to Tor.com.
In between 2007 and 2012 I’ve also been writing so many other stories, both novels and short stories. This just mainly highlights the big things that happened physical, And why do I show this? Because I’ve been working hard. I’ve heard a lot since I began writing to get to where I am. To get to the point that I am pretty good.
So why do I bring this up?
Because a facebook friend of mine mentioned that she began writing in October an idea she’s had. Okay. That’s fine. I wrote Shad based off of an idea I had for over a year. But the problem I’m having, and where I’m struggling, is that she then says that she is going to do a read through to make sure it looks good and then submit it for publication. (Not only that, but she got a call for a publishing house. I have a gut feeling based on what she said though it’s a self publishing house.)
Still, it’s hard, because I read this and it’s like she might have it all figured out when she has only been writing since October really. And I want to justify why my stuff is better than hers but that’s not fair either. I don’t know. Maybe it is.
On the other hand, maybe we could help each other. I mean, after all, we both write. I have been dying for a writing partner. But does that do me any good? I don’t know. I would be so scared that I would assume a superior attitude unintentionally because everything tells me that logically, what she has can’t be good. And besides, I don’t know if, in the beginning, I would have been ready to tear apart my novels to the degree I do now.
You know, that’s an interesting thought. Okay, I am actually going to change the total tone of this post starting now. Why? Because sometimes it works better for me to brood and sometimes it works better for me to help. So I’m going to try to help.
Here are the biggest things I have learned from that past experience writing.
1.) Learn to write badly. With some stories (not all) it works just getting a brain fart on paper and fixing it up really carefully. I’ve done that with my last two stories and they’ve come out pretty decently. Sometime, especially beginning writers, get so caught up in making it look good the first time that they forget to actually edit.
2.) Editing is a long, long process: Nothing is good the first time. Good only comes from careful editing that often happens several times. In a short story, I went through one scene almost four times before I finally moved on, just because I couldn’t get it right. Then later I edited it another two.
3.) Sometimes editing involves deleting. Anyone who has done any kind of editing knows that editing isn’t pretty. It’s hard. It involves making decisions and sometimes those decisions require a delete key. I’ve combined two scenes into one, which involved rewriting both scenes. I’ve deleted whole sections. I’ve discovered after complete a story and editing it once that the story didn’t have a really good plot and I needed to fix that. It doesn’t involve just a read through.
4.) Characters need to talk. No story will be good unless you yourself can hear the characters. I have looked at scenes and said, “No. I don’t like that line. He won’t say that.” I’ve also written scenes where it felt like I could hear the POV character’s in my head. The more you get to know your characters, the more you will have to listen to them. And sometimes that means bad/annoying things happen. Sometimes it means pretty cool things happen.
For example, in mermaids I had problems because I wanted one character (Ronen) to kiss another (Avi). I got it so that it would. However, Avi’s reaction that I originally wrote didn’t work and instead, she banished Ronen from ever seeing her again. (Haha!) Problem is that Ronen was needed to 1) tell her she is going to be reagent and 2) make her eventually fall in love with her. (Evil author strikes again.) I could listen to Avi and allow her to banish him or I could make it easier for me. I chose the former and–tada!–the story actually came out better. (See why it’s important now.)
5.) Your first novel (typically) sucks. I don’t remember where I read that exactly, but the message is the same. The person said to write you first novel, learn everything you can, and then hide in a drawer because it really isn’t good. Though I still love the characters and the plot in Hope (my first novel), I did eventually discard it because it was so bad.
6.) If you can find them, find a writer support. When I first began, I had my brother. Then my sister kinda took over the place along with my friend, Alyssa. Now, I have no one and it is actually really hard. I would love to be able to sit down and talk with someone about this thing I should be writing instead of this, but I don’t have anyone. So find that special person and keep them close.
7.) Don’t ask yahoo answers for any help. They won’t help you.
That’s the big things I can think of right now. Writing is fun. It takes time. It’s hard because it is a personal activity that doesn’t involve other people too often. But if you really want to learn how to be a good writer, then go for it. Because nothing beats having hundreds of characters dancing in your head.
I took this out of my textbook for creative writing, then added a question to handle the science fiction / fantasy character’s that I typically deal with. It’s actually kinda cool how it comes out. I did it for two characters so far and it was rather fun. Especially for the one chararacter that I just randomly started writing for.
What is your character’s name? What sounds right for this character? What fits? What does this name suggest about your character’s personality? Does your character use his/her given name or a nickname? If so, why? Has your character ever had a nickname?
If you were going to buy a casual outfit for this character, what would you buy? What image does he/she cultivate? What does this image say about him/her?
If your character could have three wishes granted, what would they be?
Likewise, what three things does your character most want NOT to happen to him/her?
Does this character have any special skill or ability; if so, what? How did he/she discover this ability? How did he/she train? What limits does he/she have on this ability?
If you were to enter this characters’ bedroom for the first time, what would you notice? Name four objects that immediately stand out. What are the dominate colors of the room? What sounds do you hear?. If you were to spend an hour snooping in this room, would you find anything hidden? If so, what?
What obsessions does your character have?
Describe your character’s belief systems–or lack of belief system–and sketch out how he or she came to believe these things.
Your character is in an uncharacteristically honest mood. How would he/she finish these statements?
To understand me, you first need to understand….
I don’t usually tell anyone this, but when I was a kid…
If I had a million dollars I would….
Where does your character work? What specifically is his/her job? How does your character feel about this job? How long as he/she worked there?
Describe your character’s average Wednesday? Where is your character at 8AM, 10 AM, noon. 3 PM, 6 PM and 10 PM? How does this compare to an average Saturday?
How much money does your character have in the bank or in investments? Where did this money come from?
What are your character’s most substantial character flaws or shortcomings or personality? Does he or she recognize them?
What are your character’s most significant character strengths?
Does your character have any brothers or sisters? If so, which one is his or her favorite and why? If your character only has one sibling, what does your character like best about this person and like the least? If your character is an only child, did he/she ever want another sibling? Why?
How many closes friends does your character have? Name them.
Who is your character’s closest friend and why? Describe their history as friends.
What is the worst thing your character has ever done? What is the worst non-illegal thing your character has ever done?
Describe your character’s relationships with his/her parents.
If your character were in to die today, what would he or she be most like to be remembered for?
List three things about your character that will most likely NOT be included in your story.
Did I mention that I’m writing a story for my school newspaper? I would have posted a link to it but for some reason I’m not there.
Anyway, I’m only allowed 750 words an issue. For me, that’s hard. I’m having to cut out a lot while still maintaining interest in each issue. But I think it’s really good for me too because I tend to write too much into my short story.
So here’s what I learned from all this editing. A big secret behind short stories I think actually.
There is no such thing as background conversations.
Some people would call this maid-and-butler conversations. I don’t think of them as that, because the characters don’t know each other. It gives the characters a chance to tell each other some about themselves, while hinting information to the reader.
I like these. Sometimes they’re boring and need to be cut a lot later on, but I typically think they work out well enough.
In a short story, every word, as my book puts it, needs to serve double and triple duty. Immediately, when I am cutting out words, this is the first to go. Because my readers want to hear more about the fact that these illegal things are going on in town, what Colton does about them, and that Justin gets in a fight than that Colton and Justin have been arguing for a while.
Here’s another bit of advice for you to think about. Dr. D in class said that short stories are about change. I wrote it down. It would be interesting to see what would happen in Just Trust Me if Nessa went the other way.
Which reminds me of what I really wanted to mention. (Besides that I need to go eat lunch before my mom comes.)
ALL MY DUMB CHARACTERS FROM MY SHORT STORIES WANT THEIR OWN NOVELS!!!!
Seriously. I don’t know what to do. I’m writing a story right now about this body guard who a) loves the person he guards and b) is at high risk of losing his job (well, the draft right now doesn’t show that, but the character in my head does). And for some reason the important person is telling me that she wants to overthrow her uncle (the ruler) and lead a revolt. In a novel. And the the guy is going to go back home where there is a riot. And that the whole country is in unrest.
I know that I said writing short stories tend to seem to help me come up with better characters but this is ridiculous.
ALL YOU SHORT STORIES CHARACTER CANNOT HAVE YOUR OWN NOVEL. PERIOD!
I just don’t have the time. At all.
Anyone else have this problem?
If you’ve been around here a while, you probably know that I’m working on a novel about mermaids. At least, that was my plan. Just Trust Me is the prelude to this novel and I started writing it this month.
However… I’m running into some problems. Mainly, mermaids are *2!%!%!%^! hard to write about!
This leads me to question if I should write it on mermaids. The reasons are as follows.
Why I want to write Mermaids:
- Mermaids are awesome.
- I’ve discovered a few twists with mermaids that I’d like to play along with.
- One of the main components of my story is the fact that the mermaids are “rescuing” humans, and the humans are living under the sea as mermaids. I can’t figure out a situation that involves that.
- All of my houses and town arrangements involve a 3D layout of the towns. I’m not sure how to change that (besides making them able to fly.)
- I have heard rumors of mermaids possibly being the next thing after vampires.
Why I don’t want to write mermaids:
- One of my components is the fact that mermaids and humans can produce offspring. I can’t figure out how they could do reconstructive surgery and still keep the private areas in tack enough.
- I can’t figure out how or what they can eat or drink. Particularly eat. And while I’m on that, what about smoking?
- Movement is difficult to describe. Sitting, standing, walking, ect.
- I can’t figure out how to do furniture either.
- Sometimes too unique of an environment throws readers. I’m here to tell a good story, not show how good I am at creating an environment.
So, I have three options.
A) Keep it as it is and figure all this out. After all, I’m a writer. I should be able to.
B) Create an air pocket under the sea, so they generally walk around on two legs, like the Irish mermaids can, add extra buoyancy which not only allows them to have a 3D movement but then they can jump up, and, if desired, they can swim through the water well and rescue humans. Then also, they can eat easier.
C) Create a world that involves flying “mermaids,” so I maintain the 3D movement aspect, make it easier for them to eat, keep the legs, so we have no problem with reproducing, and movement is the best. The problem with this is: what are the humans in this scenario?
As I work on my first draft of my mermaid story, I’m find myself having to remind myself about how to write. As this is only my second or third novel, I want it to be just like the novel I already finished. So here is a list of things to remind myself as I write.
- This will not be perfect.
- Write first; edit later.
- Your characters talk to you more while you write than when you plan. So write already.
- Facebook and wordpress are only there to distract you.
- As related to number four, facebook and wordpress do not need to be checked every five minutes. They can live without you.
- Mail doesn’t need to be checked either.
- Facts about how much caffeine a dog can intake doesn’t need to be looked at.
- It’s just ones and zeros. Ones and zeros are cheap and easy to change, so keep writing.
- Your perceptions of how good a section is aren’t reliable. Just because you think it’s boring doesn’t mean that it’s boring. Wait a little bit.
- Sometimes character histories have to change.
- Sometimes it’s best to wait until later to look up a small bit of factual information. After all, the internet will then distract you.
- Be open to change.
That’s all I have at the moment. Do you have anything to add?
I’ll be presenting a workshop on creative writing at my school in about two weeks, so I came up with these things that I always look at before I start writing.
What is the goal of the character?
I don’t say plot because that implies that I know the plot. I’m finding that I typically cannot pinpoint a plot until I finish and I can look at the whole picture. But my character needs an initial goal and a plan.
How does goal and plot differ? In Shad, one of my stories, his goal was to win in the intragalatic race. As such, he worked towards that and kept struggling to make it through the race. However, the plot actually turned out to be Shad trying to break away being a sweeper and establish himself in the real world, something I didn’t even realize until I looked at the finish product and saw that, based on where the story ended, that had to be it.
What is the ending?
I will not start writing a story until I know the ending. Period. Because either a) I’ll never learn the ending or b) it’s not a good story. Either way, I need to have a clue on the ending.
Now, sometimes for me that ending is vague. Like, I know they are going to run the aliens off of earth, but I’m not quite sure how. Sometimes it’s quite concrete, like, the story will end with Kayla comes to the new home and Shad meets her.
Character’s Point of View (POV):
That seems strange. Well, of course I’m going to tell it in the character whose story I thought of. However, when I began to systematically think about the POVs, I realized that sometimes the obvious character isn’t the best.
For example, I’m going to post a story this week where a mermaid (Avi) has to convince her sister (Nessa) to join an underground liberation movement. Instead of writing it from Avi’s POV though, so Avi keeps having to tell Nessa everything that Avi already knows, I wrote it from Nessa’s POV, which ended up making a very interesting story.
This time also makes me realize whether I really need to tell it in one or two or five people’s POVs.
This goes slightly into the POV, but something I sometimes decide later and sometimes I don’t even decide until after I pick up the story. In general, I will write in third person. However, some stories call for first.
(Then you have the annoying stories that you write that you intend for it only to be a short story and so you write it in first person only to have the characters tell you its a novel, but you don’t want to write it in first person the whole way, so you need a new way of presenting the information without rewriting the whole short story/prelude.)
I think this aspect is a fundamental part of any story. However, I have discovered through a long and tumutious road that a personality doesn’t just come usually. If it does, it is usually perfect. As such, I automatically want to have a clue about how this character acts, is she/he shy, determined, stubborn, brave? And what is the character’s weakness?
Where is the story best told?
Generally, this is obvious. However, not always. And sometimes the setting doesn’t make a difference. But it is something to think about.
I should probably mention that I don’t look at tense. Typically, I’ll write in past tense. If I happen to start writing in present, it’s by mere accident but usually because I hear the voices so well that I just write as they tell me. (No, I am not schizophrenic.)
When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written, “He dies.” That’s all; nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is, “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with, “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies.” but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
—Mr. Edward Magorium from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium