Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Character Creation: Character Worksheets

I will be using this week's Free-wheelin' Wednesday & Word Count Wednesday to talk a bit more on the subject of character creation. The post from yesterday touched more on who a character is at their core, as in, their most inner passion which would drive them to say or do things a certain way - depending on what they are passionate about. For instance, the scuba diving character would more than likely be an adventurer, daring, step to the front of the line sort who is willing to try new things. You get a feel right away for a character like that.

There are many other things to consider when creating your characters. The simplest way to do that is to create a profile for each character or look online for printable character sheets that are easy to fill out. There may be questions that seem unnecessary however; you will learn that answering most of them will help you with your writing. Some questions will be for you alone, they will help to move your character forward without sharing every bit of background information with your readers. You will be surprised how much these character sheets help. You may also need to refer back to them later in your story - they are lifesavers if you forget something as simple as what color eyes Aunt Susie had in chapter 3 or perhaps it was chapter 6 that she made her entrance. As good a memory as you may have, it could not possibly remember everything from every project you are working on. In the event that you do have that kind of memory, I would like a print out of your daily diet plan including vitamins and minerals you take, please. *smile*

Your character profile or worksheet will include basic information. It will also include an in-depth look at your character. It is entirely up to you which questions you include on your profiles.

Very basic character bits you might include in your profile.  
  • What part the character plays in the story (hero or ?)
  • Eye, hair, skin color
  • Scars, deformities
  • Height, weight and build
  • Typical daily dress
  • Family connections
  • Best friends
  • Enemies
  • Special talents
  • Quirks

Is he or she an emotional person or do they keep their emotions in check? You will want to sketch in a little background for yourself - something like; the hero's Aunt Mary suffered from mental illness. You may never state this fact in your story however; you will know and use it to show the compassion the hero is capable of sharing.

Here is a printable (PDF) character worksheet created by ©William Victor, S.L. in 2009 for the website Creative Writing Now. Several more turn up using the simple Internet search term, character worksheet.

*There are also computer programs for writers that come with worksheets for characters, plotting, scenes and all else you need to create the perfect novel board.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Write What You Know? Characters

Write What You Know? Characters

Let's have a closer look at creating characters who will stick with your readers long after they close the cover of your novel.

If you are a writer, it is easy enough to write about what you know because you already know it. Make sense? The problem with writing what you know is that you (or most people) will run out of things to write about too soon. So let's add to this long held bit of wisdom that writers have used since the beginning of, well, writing. While it is a good idea to write what you know, it may not challenge you much. It is safe and comfortable.

Instead, why not write from a place of caring. The thing that tugs at your heart in your quiet moments may surprise you by being the singular thing that brings your story to life. The thing that makes you get up early on your day off, go out into the world and do something for other people in your community.

In addition, writing about something you would like to learn more about or perhaps someday take part in is another great way to breathe life into your characters. I call this the bucket list example.

Example #1
Easy & Safe
You will create this character from what you know. We will pretend for a moment that a single mother who worked on the line for decades in a local sewing factory raised you. You, now grown up, have worked for the same factory for two decades. However, your job is as the accountant for the factory. You have worked hard and never traveled outside of the surrounding counties.

Now, if you create a character based on 'your' life experiences, this character will know pretty much all there is to know about being raised by a single mother and sewing factories. You will also have a great mind for numbers. This is an interesting character. By creating this character, you have not stretched yourself very far. You will need to add some elements to their personality and daily life to make them more interesting than 'what you know'.

Example #2
Heartfelt Passion
You will create this character from your heart, your passion. Let's say you have always had a heart for sick children. Perhaps the loss of a childhood friend stuck with you into adulthood. Using that as a foundation for your character, you can create a compassionate nurse who works at a children's hospital. Maybe he/she will work in the cancer unit or be a member of the flight team who brings in organs for transplant. There are many directions you could take this character by pouring your heart into him or her.

Go visit the children's ward in a local hospital. Speak to the nurses who work there. Volunteer for an afternoon each week to read stories to the children in the playroom. Offer to sit with a child who cannot leave their bed while their parents go out to dinner or home for a shower and change of clothing. Research, research, research. Since this is your 'passion' character, the research will not be work at all. 

Example #3
Bucket List
Admittedly, this is my favorite character type because I can be as creative as I want to be with the character. I have little knowledge going into the creation of the character. That means that they will evolve right in front of me. All their little particles will materialize much like the original Star Trek series characters did in the transport room on the original Enterprise. Silly? I prefer to think of it as imagination.

This character is created from what you are curious about or perhaps secretly longing to be involved in some day. For the sake of the character, we'll say that you have always been interested in learning to scuba dive. With that knowledge, you would like to dive into every ocean on the planet. On the other hand, maybe you would only go cave diving in the springs of the southern United States.

In most cases, the bucket list character will take extensive research on your part. After all, you only had a vague idea or thought that 'someday' you would like to try something new. I would expect the percentages to be evenly split between the amount of work and the level of fun you will have with this character.

The best thing about creating your character is that they can be a person you would love or loathe. You get to choose who they will be. How fun is that?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Doubt Devil: Fear of Failure

Welcome to my first blog post on the new author blog. I do hope you will hang around with me once I'm up and running here. I thought I'd jump into the deep in with my first post. Why not?

Fear of Failure

As I was closing in on and then trudging across that half-century mark, I realized a few things, things that had eluded me for the first part of my life. One of these (better late than never) epiphanies was that I had lived much of my life in 'fear of' - the fear of failure was huge. It is human to fail. Repeat - it is human to fail. We all do it at some point in our lives, some of us more often than others. Some of us seem to need more than one time around the block to realize we should pause at the caution light and rethink our next move. After all, we would not drive into an intersection without looking. Life is full of intersections.

I fear failure much less now. You see, I have failed many times. Titanic-sized failures yet, I am still here; the world kept turning in spite of my failures. If only we could know that from the start.  The sooner we learn that we all fail, the further in life we are able to propel ourselves with the lessons learned through our failures. These personal failures teach us to recognize the caution light and to pause at the intersections we come to on the road of life. Pausing gives us time to make better decisions. Better decisions lead to fewer failures.

I thought I had the fear of failure thing beaten - triumphed over it completely. That is what I get for thinking. While writing my current novel, Vanda's Calling, doubt began to creep into my writing sessions. Voices other than those of my characters were finding their way into my thoughts as I was trying to work out scenes or settings. Perhaps my heroine is too nice. Maybe the hero is too brusque. Maybe the pacing is all wrong. Worst of all was the thought that I should quit. I could not possibly publish or have published a novel. No one would want to read what I had to say. The more I tried to push these doubts aside, the more often they crept into my writing time and even interrupted my sleep.

The worst days are the days spent battling the thoughts that I am a fraud at this writing thing. Warring with the voices in my head that tell me I was meant to do something else. Not my voice, no. Often, these voices come from those who never seemed to find their own true path in life. Those are the voices I find most annoying as I struggle with the devil of doubt. Can I do this? Should I do this? Should I place all these files into a zipped folder, tuck it away and get a 'real' job? 

I had to face the fact that this devil of doubt that plagued me on a daily basis was not going to go away until I looked into its glowing red eyes and told it what a liar it was, is and always had been. It is no easy task to stare down your own doubt devils. Doubt devils are creatures from the dark that torment us only as long as we let them. Once we realize we have the power to beat them, we can do just that and move on with our mission.

For me, that is to finish my current novel and move on to the next one - and the next one and then next one and the next one... Will the devil of doubt rear its ugly head again? I am almost certain it will. I am equally as certain that I will be able to overcome that particular devil.

Are you struggling with your own doubt devils or have you become victorious over them?

*An Update*

Since writing this post, I have written and had accepted by a publisher,
the first book in a trilogy and one short story.
Vanda's Calling is not yet complete. She is next on my list of projects to finish.
She has been patient with me while I whipped my own doubt devil.