Preptober 2021 | 5 tips to develop your characters

Some writers begin their novel planning with a plot; some begin with a character. Either way, the protagonists, antagonists, side characters, and even the background ones are all crucial to your novel and knowing your characters can make or break a readable, engaging story.

I made a mistake when I began writing my last novel: I didn’t get to know my protagonist like a friend. I knew who she was, her background, and her motives, but I didn’t actually know her. I ended up having to pause in my writing and develop her characterisation, because otherwise she simply felt too flat.

Continue reading “Preptober 2021 | 5 tips to develop your characters”

10 Cool Names Starting With Q

So I apologise for not posting for a while so I’ll do a quick post now! Here are 10 cool names starting with the letter ‘Q’ – five boy names and 5 girl names. We’ll start with the boys…

  1. Quanza (SPANISH): giving
  2. Quant (LATIN): knowing his words
  3. Qidri (BIBLICAL): place name
  4. Quirin (ENGLISH): magic spell
  5. Quico (SPANISH): stands by his friends [also: Paco]

And to the girls…

  1. Qamra (ARABIC): moon girl [also: Kamra]
  2. Questa (FRENCH): looking for love [also: Kesta]
  3. Quita (LATIN): peace [also: Keeta, Keetah]
  4. Quete (SPANISH): head of the house [also: Keta]
  5. Q-Malee (AMERICAN): form of Cumale: open-hearted [also: Cue, Q, Quemalee, Quemali, Quemalie]

So I hope that this was a somewhat interesting post, and yeah I’ll try and do a proper one next week!

Characterisation Ideas

Characters are the obvious backbone to your writing, no matter what the style is: play, novel, film or TV script, even a simple comedy sketch. So getting them right is clearly the thing you should be working on.

Characterisation is something I am notoriously bad at. In my novella, An Icy Collision, the characters feel like people I vaguely know as opposed to BFFs. My NaNoWriMo 2014’s downfall was, in my opinion, not knowing my characters well enough – I didn’t even know my MC’s skin colour!

I haven’t tried all of these tips you’re about to read, but I would suggest giving them ago. If you want, you could always let me know what happens, because I always love to hear from you. I’ll have a go at these, too, perhaps in one of the exercise books I recently bought. Let’s see what happens, eh?

  • The name game. I saw this in Writing Magazine. Write out your character’s name vertically down a page. Then, next to each letter, write something they like that begins with that letter! (Good luck if their name is Xander.) After you’ve done that, write something they dislike next to each letter again.
  • Go character image referencing. For An Icy Collision, one thing I did do was go picture hunting and now I have various files with captions like ‘Ariane’s eyes’ or ‘Meryll’s mouth’. Pretend that you’re trying to recreate their face for a police investigation and enjoy finding different parts of them you might not have thought of before.
  • Make a meal in their style. Even go out shopping for ingredients. And, though this bit may make you sound crazy, talk to your character/s as you go around the supermarket or even as you’re cooking, get their hints and ideas, whilst learning how they talk to one another and to you as the author. Do they become incredibly sarcastic when you mess up? Perhaps you would never have known this if you hadn’t had dinner with them!
  • Talk to them. Preferably alone. Why preferably alone? Your friends can’t communicate with your characters in the same way you can. Just get a list of questions, sit down and ask aloud what you want the answer to. It might take a while for you to get into your stride, but you’ll make it.
  • Write short stories about them. Say your character loves Harry Potter. Put them in Hogwarts! See how they react, what happens. You’ll learn a lot and it’ll be great fun too.

So here you are, just some ideas about your characters that you might want to use.

I’m going to start planning my second novella in the series from the 16th February (half term here!) – it seems like I’m going to have some fun with my characters that week! Why don’t you join me? We can have a week of character development!

Questions, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

For and Against a Happy Ending

When writing, two (or more) characters often start to look at each other a little bit, then a little bit more and a little bit more and before you know it they’ve had sex in the closet and are declaring their undying love leaving you in front of the keyboard with your hands in your hair and screaming wildly, to which assorted family members and friends just think, “I knew it,” (which can also happened with two (or more) real life people too, I guess).

So you have characters in a relationship. But do you let them keep it? Some readers live for romance, and others would rather cut it down with a scythe. What do to, what to do?

For a Romantic, Happy Ending

  • It’ll leave you with a warm, bubbly feeling in your stomach (well, hopefully).
  • Your readers might love you for it, especially if the characters are great (*cough*Percabeth*cough*) or fit well together even if one sucks.
  • All characters deserve something nice.
  • If you’re finishing off a series, it might round it off nicely.

Against a Romantic, Happy Ending

  • You have a heart of cold, cold ice.
  • The characters are horrible to each other (such as Paul Marshall and Lola in Atonement). Or, one is just horrible to the other. Uh uh, not a happy, nor healthy, relationship.
  • Your characters are dead, which isn’t completely unusual.
  • You’re setting them up for another story, in which they are going to get together.
  • The romance just doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s like that. They fall out, find someone else, or maybe just don’t love each other like that, or that much, any more.

Romances are great fun to write, and can be great fun to destroy (even though they might break my heart). And if characters unintentionally end up together (it’s happened to me before. I was thinking about them and BAM the two of them decided they wanted to get it on) who are we to say that it’s impossible?

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

Wow, I DID IT! [And So Did You!]

GUYS!

LOOK WHAT I DID!

NaNoWriMo-2014-Winner-Certificate.pdf1-page-001

Wow. I’m so happy!

Although the past 30 days have been sometimes depressing with crippling self-doubt, sometimes enjoyable when I adored my characters and their story, I finally did it. I wrote 50035 words in a month, and am nearly finished with my first ever novel. I’m so proud of myself and my characters, and so grateful to my awesome friends for cheer-leading me on even when I just wanted to give up. Now just to finish it… (According to my plan, it’s only 5 chapters to go, but also according to my plan I should be on chapter 15, not 17, so who knows!)

And that’s my story. For the rest of you… 😉

It’s over. Phew. Breathe. Relax.

Give yourself a pat on the back, a biscuit from the tin and a break from your whining characters. They can wait until the morrow when you pick yourself up from the euphoria of surviving 30 days.

Don’t panic if you didn’t hit your word count. You’ve done something most people only dream of: you’ve started writing a novel. Sure, now all you have to do is finish it. If you don’t hit 50k during this month, don’t be down hearted. Maybe take a few breaths and have a little scream, but make sure you carry on writing. Do your characters care that you didn’t make it? No, of course not! They’re just pleased that you’ve finally got around to writing their story after years of saying you would and then never actually doing it. You’ll finish it eventually.

And if you do hit your word count? Yayy! Cookies for all! Treat yourself to something good (I had my first ever roll of Tootsie Rolls, which was incredible because I live in the UK!), have a little dance. You’ve done incredibly.

And then… sit back down and keep on typing! There’s words to be written, characters to be killed, perhaps sex to be had, antagonists to be destroyed, love to fall for and hope to bring.

Most of all? Keep writing!

I believe in you. 1229838_646781908728779_744216109_n

Looking Forward

There comes a time, especially during NaNoWriMo, where you dread sitting down to write each night. Your characters are driving you bananas, the plot is going nowhere, and you just can’t be bothered.

Writing isn’t just the act of putting words on a page, or typing them on a screen. Like a film, so much more happens behind the big screen than on it.

When you’re feeling low and you hate your characters so much you want to kill every single one, it’s hard to get back into it. Stop. Right there, stop. Even if you’re enjoying your novel, stop!

Sometimes, you need to slow the pace to avoid this happening as well, whilst other times it’s already begun. Don’t worry; you can reverse this effect and love your book again.

Whilst in NaNo the ideas below aren’t possible most of the time if you’re really busy, you can still try these things if only for a minute or two; and if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo, these can still help. All can be done before, during or after your novel/novella/epic/script are in the works!

  • Draw your characters. Can’t draw? Eh, skip this step. Got a friend who can draw? Oh, look, I just enticed you back! Even if you can’t draw yourself, try asking a buddy if they’ll draw your characters (perhaps they’ll do it for cookies). If you can draw, then yay, you can do it yourself. If you do have a buddy, sit with them as they draw; make sure they’re all right with you telling them exactly how you want it to be. Bonding, and character development!
  • Write back ground stories/AUs/just extra stories. Background stories are something that the reader often doesn’t get to see (such as JKR with Umbridge…although she published that). AU’s stand for Alternate Universes – if you’re writing in the past, set your characters up in the present day and see how they react!
  • Chat to someone about your novel. Look, it doesn’t matter if it’s the dog, but you might be able to find out so much more about your characters, plot and setting. Make sure you have a notebook on hand! It helps if they’re a writer; they might be able to toss ideas back at you.
  • Read. What is more relaxing? …and, of course, it tells you how the pros craft their work. Obviously. (Seriously though, wouldn’t you like to be holding a paperback copy of your own book in your hands?!)
  • Watch a film. Now, this is technically procrastinating, but this time grab a film that you’ve already watched and a notebook. Make a note of any time it changes setting, character, what happens; all ideas for your novel, or if it’s a script you’re writing, equally as helpful!
  • Write a letter to your characters – or even your novel! This can help with understanding your characters needs and wants, and your needs and wants. It might make you feel stupid writing to a book, but it can help you gain confidence, you’re still writing, and you can understand your work better. Besides, you might realise that you don’t, in fact, hate your work; just a strong dislike that will pass over in the near future.

I hope these ideas have given you some fuel for your fire. It’s week three of NaNoWriMo, so if you have a spare moment, jot down some thoughts to your characters, or have a chat whilst with your next door neighbour over the fence. You don’t have to constantly breathe your novel, but thinking about it as you go about your day-to-day business – providing it’s in a positive light! – might help you to look forward to writing when you get home.

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀
PS – How’s NaNoWriMo going for you?

We Could Be So Many People… [Cue Heather Small]

In writing, we can be anyone we want: a Starlord, a dog, a boy from Afghanistan, a girl from America, even an inanimate object. But something that all of these things have in common when you choose your narrator is the point of view it’s coming from.

You can go with first person, which would tell us exactly what’s happening as they go about their day to day business, but only theirs.

You can go with second person, which would let the reader imagine exactly what is happening, as it’s as if it’s instructing you. That sentence was written in second person.

You can go with third person, which could give more information about surrounded scenarios and other characters.

But which one would be best? Well, that depends on what affect you would like to have on the audience.

The differences between the ‘persons’ are the pronouns they use. Other things come into affect, of course (such as other information and how much you give away), but today I’m going to talk about the basics of the different ‘persons’ as well as their pros and cons.

First Person – uses ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘us’ and ‘we’.
Pros

  • Can offer insight into the main character (MC)’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Can help the reader to identify and relate to the MC.
  • Easier to portray the world around them (eg in The Hunger Games) and other character’s personalities – but, this is only from the MC’s point of view, so they could be biased.

Cons

  • If something happens elsewhere, when the MC is not present, then another character will have to narrate it to them, which can become tedious.
  • Along with the tediousness, ‘I’ can become repetitive.
  • If the character is not interesting and varied enough – or without character development – then the reader can get bored.

Second person – uses ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘yours’.
Pros

  • Puts the reader completely in the story.
  • Can make them feel incredibly involved.
  • Can be good for those ‘choose your own destiny’ stories (they are totally not my guilty pleasure… especially the Doctor Who ones…)

Cons

  • Can constantly remind the reader they’re in a story, which is exactly what you don’t want.
  • Can be difficult to write.

Third person – uses ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ and the plurals, as well as ‘they’.
Pros

  • Gives the writer (you!) the greatest flexibility; any character can be the ‘main’.
  • You can swap between characters more easily than first person.
  • Dramatic Irony. 

Cons

  • Multiple characters POV’s can get confusing, very quickly.
  • It can restrict ‘seeing’ inside the characters’ heads. You’ll have to work really hard so that the reader knows what they’re thinking (unless the affect is that they don’t).
  • Each character must have a different voice, and this can be difficult to do.

Of course, in third person you can stick to one character, like most of the Harry Potter series. Or you can switch persons (difficultly, but it can be done), such as Game of Thrones.

Ultimately, just do whatever you think is right for your novel. A post I read said that most beginning writers write from the third person, but my current novel is in 1st; additionally, another (or the same, I can’t remember) post said that lots of thriller books are in 3rd person, but mine’s in 1st. A great thing about being a writer is that you don’t have to break the rules; they bend to your will.

Have fun, and if it doesn’t work, remember that you can always rewrite it!

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀

PS – sorry this was a day late. I went to Scouts and then had an accident (I’m a Young Leader, I shouldn’t be doing anything anyway!) and had a bit of a headache last night, so I went for the easy thing of writing my novel instead. 🙂

Strip Off!

keep-calm-and-strip-off-not-literally

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to walk around naked. And, I’m assuming, neither do your characters.

Characters need clothes (duh). But not all characters dress the same.

Let’s take a historical period – Tudors. Women would wear long dresses, platform shoes if they were out, and often something on their head, like a bonnet or headdress. Men would wear big hats, long coats, shirts and those funny poofy trousers.

But that’s not all. There were jesters (I’m sure you all know what they look like), peasants in cloths and children would often just wear one full dress, especially if they were babies.

Nowadays, there’s a whole array of fashion. Crop tops, jumpers, jackets, t-shirts, long shirts, three-quarter length shirts, shirts with collars, button up shirts, pull over shirts. And that’s just tops.

You have shoes to think about, trousers (or ‘pants’ as Americans like to call them – actually, speaking of pants, you have underwear as well! Are your characters thong people?(!)), head wear, like a motorbike helmet, glasses, scarves, bags…

So when you dress your characters, keep in mind that they don’t all wear the same. One character might be a ‘chav’ – wear jogging bottoms, hooped earrings, cropped t-shirts. Another might be a more casual dresser, and wear jeans, a t-shirt and trainers. Another might be a cosplayer – seriously, imagine how much fun you’d have with that!

Even in historical contexts, not all characters dress the same. They might wear a different colour, have a headband whereas another does not, or have a different trim of lace.

The biggest difference between character’s wear is men and women – traditionally, the trousers vs. dress argument. Keep this in mind when you’re writing. If you’re going for a Mulan-like story, sure, your female character can wear trousers. But, more often than not, this wouldn’t happen. If you’re going for a real-life example, the only crime Joan of Arc was convicted of was wearing men’s clothing.

People don’t wear the same, so characters don’t either. In the novella I’m writing at the moment, one of my characters is going through a phase of wearing long, Lord of the Rings style dresses. Another just wears jeans and a t-shirt. Another likes shirts with collars. Another likes darker coloured clothing.

So mix-and-match with your characters clothing, and make them stand out.

More importantly, make them real.

Top tip: use a website like Doll Divine to have fun at creating different outfits. Sure, it seems childish, but it’s actually strangely addictive…

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

For/Against Mentally Casting People as Your Characters

Let’s face it, we all do it. You see a picture online and think, “Ohmygod, that’s [insert name of character here]!” I know I’ve done it. I once found my character, Scott, but didn’t know who the model was (for a long time, I did find it eventually, I think I’ve lost it again, though):

Scott :)

Scott 🙂

But once you have that image of a character in your mind, it’s pretty difficult to get rid of. In some cases, this works in your favour. In others? Not so much.

In the script I’m writing at the moment, I have cast my characters. I’ve even broadcast to the world who I want to play who! I find this useful; I’m using actor’s appearances to my benefit.

However, in prose, I don’t like to think about who would play them. Scott was an exception – I saw the picture, and gasped out, “That’s Scott!” It was just something that happened (it’s kinda scary how much that guy up there looks like Scott).

Continue reading “For/Against Mentally Casting People as Your Characters”