“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
– Anton Chekhov
Word of the Week: Consistory means a solemn gathering or tribunal. So far, all of my words of the week have been popping up from the fantasy novel I’ve got on the backburner, and this one is no exception. In this story, my protagonist doesn’t have long to adapt to her new surroundings before she’s carted off to a consistory of elders. I am a fan of using words that might be just ever so slightly out of the reader’s comfort zone, but can be deduced easily based on context. However, if your story reads as if you consulted a thesaurus for every third word, people will think you’re as brainless as you are pretentious and likely not find your work enjoyable.
Tip of the Week: Character building! Have you ever read a story of any length and felt that while the premise of the story had promise, one or more of the characters felt about as lively as last week’s lettuce? (There’s that alliteration thing!) I think sometimes writers get so wrapped up in the idea of their stories and how to get the plot from point A to point E by way of point D, that they forget to devote ample time to developing their characters.
Readers do not fall in love with plots. They fall in love with characters.
There are a million suggestions out there on how to write exciting characters that your readers will relate to and root for—or, in the case of villains, loathe in the most beautiful way possible. Which is proof it takes a lot of thought and planning to craft a memorable heroine or a villain people will love to hate. I have written and rewritten an entire post dedicated to this very topic a dozen times and I have created some visual aides, but here are my top three suggestions for designing your characters:
1.| Know their story. It is true that you shouldn’t include massive quantities of backstory in your story. It muddies up what you’re trying to accomplish and can ruin your chances of getting your readers invested in the right parts of your work. But as the author, you should know your character’s backstory. Their history has shaped them into the characters that they are, and it will be easier to understand what makes them tick if, well, you understand what makes them tick. It doesn’t have to be spelled out for your reader, but they will be far more likely to read as well-rounded if you know.
2.| Give them hell. We have the best of intentions with our characters. Okay, that’s a lie, we do really horrible things to them on occasion. Writers can be pretty sadistic, which can come in handy if you have a really stubborn character who just doesn’t want to be developed any further. In SLT, I had to pluck one of my characters straight from the story and write her a little short story and it was brutal. I really put her through a gauntlet of tragedy just to break her down so she had to rise up and shine. It forced me to really think about how she would react in the worst of times. You can tell a lot about a person or character when it’s time to put up or shut up.
3.| Myers-Briggs. This may seem like overkill, especially if you took a Myers-Briggs test for each of your characters. It can be kind of fun to do for your protagonist and your antagonist, though. Of course, you can always just look up the textbook definitions for each of the personality types and assign them to your cast of characters. This can be an amazing guide when you’re trying to decide how Voknar: The Prince of Annihilation might react when _(insert crazy circumstance here)_.
What are your favorite tips for character building? Share in the comments!
Resource of the Week: Perhaps my favorite website outside of WordPress and Twitter is CANVA! I literally spend hours and hours per week on this site creating images to use on, well, WordPress and Twitter. You can even make some amazing cover designs for your work! Using the free services from Canva is so powerful, you’ll think you’ve paid for it. (They do have a paid subscription service, which I currently do not utilize, but the added features are brilliant and I highly recommend taking advantage of the free trial!) Their database of stock photos is astonishing, and if you can’t find a free image that suits your desires, their paid images are a flat fee of $1 each, so it is crazy budget-friendly and takes out all the guesswork. Or, you can always upload your own images. Are you a novice at design? That’s ok. They have a series of tutorials that will help guide you into making images you can be proud to share. Even if you aren’t a novice, I thoroughly suggest going through the tutorials and the Canva Blog; it can only make you better.
Ok, ladies and gents, I told you I was interviewing one of Australia’s most eligible bachelors, so without further adieu, please allow me to introduce the amazing, indelible Tarquin Carlin! [Check out his blog here!]
A bipedal carbon based lifeform from the planet earth that transforms feelings into stories through the medium of symbolic glyphs. TARQUIN CARLIN is a semi-nomadic writer from the east coast of Australia. He is also a musician and painter, but has not convinced anyone to call him a Renaissance Man yet. When not writing he cares for three small humans and some cats. He enjoys long walks on the beach and staring bleakly into the void.
1.| In which genre do you predominately write? What interests you in it particularly?
Most of what I write is somewhere between Literary & Modern Contemporary Fiction. I usually refer to myself as a LitFic writer for ease of use. The thing that draws me toward writing in that style is that I enjoy getting deep into my character’s heads and using their innermost thoughts and feelings as story fodder. Most of my protagonists deal a lot with internal issues rather than traditional antagonists.
2.| Are you a plotter or a pantser? What does your process look like?
I definitely fall into the Pantser category as far as general writerly stereotypes go, but I am actually more of a plotter than I seem to be. I barely write much down at all when I am planning a story, but I will have spent a great deal of time developing it in my head before any of it gets put down. Externally what my process looks like is mostly just me staring into space or singing along to loud music when I’m driving alone in the car.
But, inside my head is a different story. Each story starts with the seed of an idea. Usually something very small, often just a mood or a feeling. Which will then lead me toward a character. If you then think of the inside of my mind as a conceptual three dimensional space, that seed idea spins around inside the space in my mind building up gravitational pull and sucking down a whole heap of random bits and pieces. Faces, places, plotlines, dialogue, all kinds of little ideas or thoughts I’ve had or things I’ve seen. The ones that work with what I’m thinking about get drawn to it until I have this coalescing ball of story idea in my head. Then at some point I sit down to write and try to spool it out of my mind and onto the page as a coherent narrative.
…and that’s why I’m a LitFic writer.
3.| Do you prefer character building or world building? How do you go about doing it?
That’s a hard question to answer, because they go hand in hand. I think character building wins out in the end because while I enjoy world building, it’s putting characters into those worlds that excites me. Worlds are interesting, but in the end they are set dressing for your characters to exist in and tell their stories.
As to how I go about it, I tend to develop them together. Often with a character it will just begin with a name, a mood a general idea and it gets fleshed out from there. As the character starts to grow so does the world they exist in as I start to think about their life and what is happening.
4.| Would you rather have dinner with Emerson, Doyle, Dickens or Woolf? What would you say to them?
Dickens and I’d talk to him about social reform.
5.| What’s a little known fact about you? Explain or elaborate. (Special talents, non-writing hobbies, etc.)
When I was younger I was a member of a performance troupe of fire twirlers and I was the fire breather.
Thanks for stopping in to check out C Week! I hope you’ll join me again next week, topics will include dialogue and my favorite way to protect and preserve my work! “C” you next week for a D-lightful time!