Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing Tip #7

Whee, my first cold since I started working at Target! I knew I would get one sooner or later. Going from next to no human interaction to a job where I do 50 transactions an hour is bound to wreck my immune system. Anyway, it wasn't a bad one, and it's mostly gone already. I'm still really behind on my NaNo novel, and being asleep for a day didn't help any.

One thing I've noticed with this novel is how few characters I'm working with. I have Valdius, the Grim Reaper, and an imp named Zirk who is almost always with him. Anastera is the lead female role, for movie terms, and I don't talk about her on her own much, either. I also have the ghost of a priest and Valdius' horse, but they aren't ever talked about on their own. The focus is always on either Valdius, Anastera, or Zirk. This made me think of something else my story is lacking that may be hindering my progress.

Tip #7: Put yourself or a close friend into your story.

I think of every character I write as an extension of my personality. Every character has a trait or two that stand out - Dante's bluntness, Solstice's sarcasm, Hunter's relaxed attitude. Each trait is a shred of our own personalities that we build upon and grow into a character who is centralized around that trait. Valdius repeatedly shows the sacrifices he is willing to make to protect the people he cares about. Zirk shows an almost human level of compassion beneath an exterior of mischief and sarcasm. Anastera...I don't know what the hell to say about Anastera. I haven't put much thought into her yet.

Point is, I see myself in every character I write, at least a tiny bit. Even if I write a character I despise and want to kill off at every opportunity, there is some small fragment of me - perhaps a flaw - in that character. It makes them relatable.

Dante was based off my boyfriend Tim, in both appearance and personality. Tim cares a lot for the people close to him and wouldn't mind putting himself in danger to protect them. Whether or not he'd arrive on time is another thing, but I digress. Those are a couple minor aspects of Tim that made their way into Dante. Other parts of Dante, such as his bluntness and artistic talents, are aspects of myself.

It's very easy to write a character when you feel like you really know them. It makes their dialogue and actions come very naturally. I know how my close friends will react to certain things. They all have their little things that they say all the time, their favorite words and phrases, and their fidgety habits. I pick at my lip when I'm in deep thought. Tim sort of furrows his brow, puts his hand on his chin, and tilts his head like he's trying really hard. He usually is, actually. 

Sometimes, we write characters and think, "Wow. This character is really similar to Steve, now that I think about it!" That should be a good thing! If you know Steve well, you'll know how that character, who is some fictional reincarnation of your real life friend, will act. It makes everything flow.

In The Devil's Blade, I don't really feel like I know any of my characters, and it's constantly slowing me down. I keep thinking, "Would he do this? How would she feel after all of that?" and it's wrecking my progress. It would be much easier if I had just modeled my characters a little more after people I know.

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