Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, writers, Writing and Poetry

Are You Making an Impression with Your Character?


The Hunger Games (film)
Image via Wikipedia

Are Your Characters Making an Impression?

Traci Kenworth

 

When we set off to write our story, often the characters we choose are flat. They have no substance, no reason for existing yet, they’re a blank canvas. Oh, we might see them as a grand creation in our minds but they’re not ready, not yet. First drafts are rough, weak, often to the point of being hopeless, we think. But the truth is, they’re not. It gives us the skeleton, the bones with which to work.

So you didn’t get your character to spring to life in it. There’s still a chance. I can’t stress getting to “know” your characters enough. They need to become the very air you breathe, so to speak. Of course, I’m not suggesting you ignore your regular job, family, and friends. Your creativity will ferment like yeast and produce larger –than-life characters if you concentrate on them in the time you do set aside for your writing.

Have you done in-depth interviews with your character? Writing their backstory, answering their present, past, and future questions as to who they are, who they will become? It’s important to flesh out your characters as much as possible. That little side story about the touchdown that won the championship back in 1997 might seal the deal on who your person is, what they stand for, his ideals.

As you get to know them better, what once was a frame for your story becomes fleshed out and clothed. For example: I took a girl who was running away from it all and gave her something to stay for, something to fight to keep. That running quality in her is her Achille’s heel, love is her savoir. She was a stick figure when I began, the urge to run the only thing important in her life. Slowly, when she gained others to care about instead of herself, she became a whole person with weaknesses and strengths. By the time I reach the final draft, you can no longer see the bones sticking out, only the polish of a fully-formed character. She could step off the stage.

Sometimes it is a quick balance of the plot that brings the character to the forefront in our mind, solidifies them for us. For example: I had struggled with one character as to who she was, why she was the way she was, until a twist in the plot defined her. She went from barely there, to vibrant in the story. The setting, too, can influence who your character becomes. Look at your background. What kind of a person would live there, what would it take to succeed?

Ask the hard questions and you will discover who your character is, who they’re meant to become. What are some of your tricks to making an impression with a character? There’s no one right way to do this, whatever works for you is proof that all Muses work differently and yet when their finished with the process, we’re left with characters such as Stu Redman in The Stand, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and so many more.

 

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, writers, Writing and Poetry

The Inciting Incident


The Inciting Incident

Traci Kenworth

 

According to Wiki Answer the inciting incident is, “The conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to react.”

I.E. Cas moves in order to confront/exorcise ghosts, he’s killed seventeen in the past but Anna Dressed in Blood is something he’s never seen before, even more, he might not be able to take her down.

I.E. Bella meets Edward and is drawn into his vampire world. (Twilight)

I.E. Clary discovers a whole new world she didn’t know existed and it comes with someone who may be dangerous to her heart. (City of Ashes)story arc

 

I.E. Katniss wants to save her sister from The Hunger Games and so volunteers to go into a fighting match where death is on the line.

Each scene needs to begin with an inciting incident, not just the first chapter. I’m finding that if, before I begin a chap, I write down the incident that I need to get in, I can start to work around it, so that I stage a beginning, a middle, and an end. It wasn’t until recently that I paid attention to this necessity and now that I’m doing so, I can see a real difference in the story coming together more fluidly.

How to come up with the inciting incident? What needs to be done to force the protagonist out of their comfort zone?

I.E. Cas gets thrown into the house where Anna lives, after suffering head trauma. He is forced to confront the ghost on her terms, not his own, and what he sees terrifies him.

I.E. Bella discovers the boy she likes is a vampire and must come to terms with how she feels about that.

I.E. Clary has her mother ripped from her life and struggles to find a way to save her.

I.E. Katniss must decide whether Peeta is out to kill her or safe her.

Just taking a closer look at what we mean for our characters to face as we go through each chapter will make our stories stronger, truer to our vision. At the moment, I’m using post-it-notes to arrange my scenes and their inciting incidents. They work well for me as I’m able to move them around and see how the story arc works through them. What are some tips you use to find your incident? How do you keep all of yours arranged to see the whole? Have you noted a difference in your own writing by following this formula? Any advice?

Our book should have more than one beginning, middle, and end. Rather it should have a series of them that builds on each other to a thrilling conclusion. Try this formula and see how it makes your writing shine. Good luck with all your goals this 2012.

Posted in a bit of seriousness, Reading

By the Roadside…


Cover of "Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edit...
Cover of Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edition)

By the Roadside

(Observations on life, books and the like…)

Traci Kenworth

 

Living where I do, in Amish country, is simple, easy, and a bit breath-taking. You see some quaint things you don’t see every day in the city. I think it’s part of the charm. Yet, more and more residents are having to move on due to the economy. It’s heart-breaking to get to know people and then have to say goodbyes. I love the neighbors I have and hope and pray that nothing makes them have to leave. But twice now, one neighbor has put up a for-sale sign. It makes me wonder if the house will stay empty, what the new people will be like, how we’ll get along.

My daughter is dealing with the loss right now of one of her best friends. They grew up together and now as they enter their teen years, they’ll do so apart. I wish I could stop the change from happening but I realize it’s part of life. I went through many friendships that ended at some point due to moves. But these days, it seems to be more frequent, and less of a sure thing to keep friends forever. Even my son has gone through several losses. Why you can’t protect them from the hurt, you can encourage them to take the risks, the chance that things will become more stable somewhere down the line.

I suppose this is why I like books/TV shows/movies etc. that show the turmoil that comes with life. It’s an expression of where we’re at in life. Hopefully, they give us the hope, the will, to go on, to face that mountain. Books like The Hunger Game series paint a dark landscape, absolute chaos to be sure, but they also show the perseverance, the strength, of the characters who deal with it. When we as parents try to block our children from reading the books they want to, we’re showing a lack of confidence in them to sort through what their reading and take away from them the experience, the joy of being able to read, the thoughts of what they would do under the circumstances. I’m not saying ALL material is suitable for children i.e. ADULT material, but we need to foster in our children the desire to learn. And if picking up Twilight, or another book of this type, gets them to read, I say let them.

How else are they going to travel that road to adulthood?

In my youth, I read everything from romances to horror. My daughter’s read Stephen King. It hasn’t warped her mind or sent her on some rampage. It’s helped her see that fears can and are meant to be worked through. Controlling your children is never the answer. Instead, give them the opportunity to read and come to you with questions, concerns. It’ll encourage more communication and respect for both your children and you. I know as parents we like to think we’re protecting our children, but sometimes in our efforts, we stifle them.

Just give them the chance, the voice they need and I think they’ll surprise you.

The road may be rough but we’ve got each other to make it through. And that is what matters most of all.

Posted in Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters Par IV


How to Breathe Life into Your Characters

IV

Choosing Viewpoint

 

Okay, now we get down into whose “eyes” the story is told through. It should be the character with the most to lose. Is it Little Boy Blue hiding under the haystack? The Big Bad Wolf? Or Esmeralda? Sure, the villain has a lot at stake, but are readers going to identify with him/her? Or would they much rather fit into the shoes of the hero or heroine? The choice is going to be as varied and interesting as the author’s of the stories.

I would say that it also depends on who your reader is: young adult or adult? It is much easier to incorporate the baddie’s view in the adult novel. Teens want to embrace the characters they read about, not be repulsed, imo. That is why Katniss, Clary, and others are so beloved. They speak to a reader, they’re like old friends. You want to encourage that comfortably as much as possible. Give them something unique, quirkish for sure, but ultimately it’s their hearts that matter.

A good character, a strong-rooted one, will be followed by their fans through thick and thin. So what makes a hero/heroine? Is it their bravery? Their ability to function when the lights go out in a haunted house? Courage is a powerful motivator. What makes Jay Asher’s hero listen to the tapes of a classmate who killed herself? An inner need to know the truth, to go the distance, to know himself.

I think it is the journey, the obstacles thrown into our characters path, the quest to overcome them, to become a better person that keeps those pages turning. In real life, we may not always be the “star player” in our world, but in a book, we can soar to new heights, maybe even change a part of who we are, how we see things, when we finish it. A novel gives us hope that things might be different, that others understand and awaken courage within us. They explore all topics from depression, to suicide, cancer, and rape to name a few. Stories can teach us something at the same time they deliver “the goods.”

Can your book be written from multiple viewpoints? Yes. Often both the hero and heroine share in the telling. I, personally, prefer this method. It gives you a chance to explore events that happen when another character is off-screen. You can advance the story faster. Look at Maggie Steifvater’s linger series. The hero and heroine effectively play off the other’s last scene. Simon and Clary do this well also in the City of Bones series. Here, we have a slight variation on just who the “hero” is, Simon or Jace. But clearly, Simon has the “most” to lose.

So, when your exploring how to begin your novel, consider the viewpoint character/s. A rough coal can be chipped away at to display a diamond. Point-in-case, hush, hush’s fallen angel. A “good” guy can be hiding in our midst, a “shattered” heroine can learn to live again. And the Big Bad Wolf can be defeated.

Posted in Reading

Review: The Mockingjay


SPOILER ALERT:

Let me just say that I loved this series by Suzanne Collins. The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is likeable, spunky, someone to root for. Plus there are two boys in her life to keep you enthralled. The world is well built, downright scary to imagine and all the players fit well into it. I’ve seen the growth arc between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale as well as some minor characters. The Mockingjay begins with Katniss recovering after the end of the Quarter Quell(games where the contestants fight to the death.) She has lost Peeta and her spirit in the war that follows.

The Rebellion wants to use her(as in earlier books she was used by the Capital)to promote their war. But with her faith shaken, she is reluctant to take on the job as their “mascot” without certain conditions met. As this takes place, an interview comes from the capital and Katniss learns Peeta is still alive. And angered over the Rebels attacks and using her as a symbol for the war. Indications that he’s being manipulated by the capital take flight.

Meanwhile, Gale hopes to win her over to “his” side. Katniss becomes empowered over President Snow‘s treatment of Peeta and the people of the districts to take a stand. Unfortunately, she has an enemy in the Rebel leader, Coin. When Peeta is rescued, Katniss again becomes shaken to find that he has been programmed to kill her. After an assassination attempt is announced for Snow, Katniss makes sure she is on the team. She never suspects Peeta will be part of the attack or that she’ll have to protect herself from him as well as the Capitalists.

This book was an easy read and kept me on my toes until almost the end. I have to admit that I thought it was a bit rushed and I would have liked to see Katniss take more of a role in the final battle. A death near the end also didn’t set well with me. I had to read it a couple of times to realize who died. I felt that didn’t make sense and was too convenient. Also, the aftermath of the war didn’t leave her in any better position, I felt, than before the war. Her heart had finally made its choice(which I was thrilled with)but, again, I thought she’d be a part of the rebuilding of the districts. Instead, it seems she becomes almost a sidenote. Sad, in itself.

It was definitely my least favorite book due to the ending, but I am looking forward to seeing what else Collins comes up with and will definitely be there for The Hunger Games movies.

Posted in Reading

Last Update


Only had a few minutes to read this morning before Read-a-thon ended. I got to page 6 of Mockingjay. Here’s the blurb for it:

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Her family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capital. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been a part of the Revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the ashes and is now plotting to overthrow the Capital. Everyone it seems has had a hand in the carefully laid plans, everyone–except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility of countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebel’s Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost.