Temptations to avoid when writing characters

trapped-1315903I’ve had a great time getting to know the characters in my SF novel. A plethora of minor characters run around in my story, but I have three main ones:

  • Bandonn FarPacer-Technology genius; while growing up, forced to fight a war on his home planet; escaped the war, and wants to be an agent for the Consortium to help disadvantaged cultures. Oh, and  he’s allergic to sex.
  • Durso RascaLion-Lothario; lives day-by-day; doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Has a quick temper, but his best friend, Bandonn, usually keeps him in check.
  • Edom CarpenTrail-Priestess for the Siron;  grew up lonely; rich parents ignored her; after a life of wicked living, she finds fulfillment in the spiritual and helping others.

Okay, that’s just the starting point for these three. They are all from the same home planet, but happen to work on the same luxurious galactic liner, a space ship on which passengers vacation.

I’m going to ignore plot points to avoid spoilers, and instead mention a few things I learned in character development. First, in early drafts, there wasn’t enough conflict between my three main characters.

The temptation was to have their friendships be too perfect.

Yeah, they’re friends, but even the best of friends have ups and downs. So, I threw a few wrenches into their friendships with each other. Bandonn, who’s allergic to sex, resents Durso’s constant womanizing; Durso gets sick of Edom’s proselytizing about the Siron and accuses her of being a rich ‘princess’; Edom finds herself jealous of Bandonn when he gets something she thinks she deserves. There’s more, but you get the idea.

Secondly, using subtext made my characters more interesting. Instead of coming out and naming and emotion, I would hint at it with actions and dialogue.

The temptation was to explain too much because I was afraid the reader wouldn’t ‘get it.’

Readers are smarter than you think. They don’t want to be insulted; they want to be kept on their toes. Instead of saying, “Edom was jealous of Bandonn.” I would show the unspoken emotions beneath the surface:

Bandonn woke up. The infirmary?

He saw Edom standing beside the bed. “Are we back on the ship?”

“Yes. You’re fine.”

He blinked a few times. The memories of what happened on Figuola sharpened. “Are you okay? Durso?”

“We’re fine.”

He saw his weaveglove sitting on the dresser next to the bed. He reached out. “Can you get my …”

She picked up his weaveglove and tossed it onto the top of the bed next to his leg.

He looked at her and tilted his head. “Are  you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

Writing characters this way so much more fun.

Thirdly, in my early drafts, I concentrated so much on Bandonn, the main protagonist. He had goals, wants and needs.

The temptation was to not give the other major characters goals, wants and needs.

Durso really lacked any purpose in the story except to be a foil for Bandonn’s problems. After rewriting, Durso gained more specific goals, wants and needs.

So, don’t give in to the temptations. Not only will your characters be more interesting, they will be more interesting to write.

Here are some recent articles on developing characters in your fiction:

In honor of fifty years of YA novels

reading-1309980In honor of its fiftieth anniversary, I read The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton again after about twenty-five years. Hinton has been said to single-handedly jump started the YA publishing market.

I went through a period of reading YA novels. Most of Hinton’s–That Was Then, This Is Now; Rumble Fish–and tackled Paul Zindel’s books beginning with The Pigman. To my repertoire of YA novels, I read Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and many more.

Even as an adult, I’ve enjoyed YA fiction more than ever. As an adult, I’ve read classics like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler just to name a few. I have never thought YA novels were only for young adults.

YA fiction has ruled pop culture the last fifteen to twenty years: The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, and The Harry Potter series are the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s an article by a young adult author about her writing experience. It’s hilarious:

A Crash Course in YA Taught Me How to Write.

 

Harmon’s Plot Embryo: A Writer’s Tool for both Outlining and Evaluating

I admit it: I just started watching Community. Yes, I know. Better late than never. I kept hearing how great the show was, but never got around to following it. Well, now, thanks to Hulu, I can binge watch while I’m cleaning house or laundry or whatever.

Community_title

Lately, though, I’ve been hearing about this “Plot Embryo” for writers developed by Dan Harmon, creator of Community. There are many ways to plot a novel. This Plot Embryo simplifies the process more than any other method I’ve seen.

Not only is it a way to outline a novel, but–if the writer has already written a draft or two of it–it’s an excellent tool for evaluating what has already been written.

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Writer Rachael Stephen talks about Harmon’s Plot Embryo in her writing YouTube series. She breaks it down several different ways and also talks about the source material for the Plot Embryo.

Here are some more resources to learn about the Plot Embryo:

I plan to use the Plot Embryo up against my novel in progress to see how it fares.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

Reading Roundup for 2016

Here are most of the books I’ve read during 2016:

Classics

Contemporary Fiction

Drama

Graphic Novels

Rereads (these are all pretty much also Science Fiction & Fantasy)

Science Fiction & Fantasy Series

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Spiritual

Writing Instruction

Art Appreciation

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

I just discovered this neat website for fantasy writers

mythic-header2I came across this online community for writers of fantasy called Mythic Scribes.

Here’s how they describe themselves:

“Mythic Scribes is a community of fantasy writers who are passionate about storytelling.  We provide a platform for new and aspiring authors, as well as a meeting place for writers and fans of the genre.

By sharing both the joys and the struggles of writing, we offer inspiration and support to one another.”

https://mythicscribes.com/

The Reading Mediums

old-machines-1232583Several years ago, when I bought my Kindle, I felt like I was betraying the book publishing industry. Maybe I was. I got over it quick, though, because I love the convenience of reading a digital book. Now I read books on my iPad mini either through the Kindle app or through the public library’s ebook website which is powered by Overdrive.

So now, in this first quarter of the twenty-first century, flying cars are not common, but electronic books are.

At first, there was terror in the streets with cries of “Ebooks are going to kill the print book!” but what has happened is ebooks are just one more way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, and ebook. Don’t panic.

And, these days, we don’t even read our books. We listen to them. I have listened to more books this year than read any. Audible.com  is the Amazon of audio book selection (in fact, I think it’s part of Amazon somehow). My local public library also has a nice audio book collection I use to listen to books to and from work.

So, this is the break down of the medium of books I read: audio books in my car, ebooks while I sit in bed before I go to sleep and traditional print books at the coffee shop.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

Why I’m Not Watching “The Walking Dead” Anymore

the_walking_dead_title_cardI didn’t get into the AMC network show The Walking Dead until its fourth season.

Dog sitting for some friends, I binge-watched over a weekend and got hooked. The next season would start in a few weeks, and I couldn’t wait.

For the next couple of years I watched TWD faithfully. Then I got rid of cable.

I planned to watch it on Netflix. Then I realized Netflix only carries past seasons of the show. The current season will be on Netflix after its initial run on AMC. Well, with all the hub-bub over the arrival of Negan, a major bad guy from The Walking Dead comic books upon which the show is derived, ratings were at an all time high.

But, surprisingly, I didn’t care. And I still don’t.

I may or may not watch the current season when it’s on Netflix. I’ve given up on the show. Here’s why:

  • I got rid of cable.  As I said, I got rid of cable and subscribed to Netflix and Hulu. Not only are they cheaper, they have more variety than even hundreds of channels that show the same thing over and over. I’ve discovered a whole set of new tv series on Netflix and Hulu.
  • Tired of the Violence. I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t gross out at the bashing in of the skull of a “walker.” I always ask: “Wonder how they did that?” But it seems like each season, the writers of the show try to find an even more gruesome way for someone to die by the hands of walkers. Yawn. Moving on.
  • Lack of hope. This is the main reason I will probably not rush to watch TWD anymore. The show is in its seventh season and there’s no sign of a cure for becoming a zombie. While the show is still on a rating’s high, I understand not wrapping up the story, but after a while, the lack of hope the characters go though wears me down. I don’t know if the comics ever offered any kind of radical change that would wrap up the story, but the television show is surely not going to be done as long as the ratings are good.

And so, I have moved on to other shows like American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful, Timeless, and others. When I get a chance to watch the latest season of TWD, I’ll see how I feel. Right now, I’m not missing it.

Post Script:
Oh, and by the way, getting rid of cable is the best thing I’ve done in a while. Netflix and Hulu (and even Amazon Prime) have more a selection, and I can watch whenever I want. Cable, even with all those channels, had the same thing over and over.

No regrets. I highly recommend it.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.