Thursday, May 25, 2017

Digging Deeper: Worlds

Welcome back to the Digging Deeper series!

Last time we talked about how to create a character that was deeper than just the cartoon flick you read in the daily paper. But everybody has to live somewhere, which leads us to our next topic.
    To start with, you have to know where on earth (or not) your world is!
Fantasy Writers: The job for you guys is actually pretty simple! Wherever you need a place to be you get to make it! No questions need to be asked at all. But this can get really confusing without a proper guideline. The answer: a map! (They aren't just used in the books you know.) Map making can be extremely helpful in organizing where all your cities are, the roads that connect them, major landmarks, and other important facts that give this world its authenticity. If everything just takes place in one city... you might need to get out more. With a map you can be realistic about how long it takes to get from one city to another and give the reader a chance to be familiar with their new home. 
Realistic Writers: The job for you guys is much harder! Unless you are writing a modern-day story, you're going to have to keep your book accurate. (Or just cross your fingers and hope nobody looks up the city you invented) This will require a massive amount of research, depending on what time era you are writing in. By sticking to the true nature of the country and its original names you are able to pull the reader back in time to a real world!
Both Writers: You can create a wonderful world by investing the time to make it real.There is a balance between describing the surroundings to give your character a backdrop and giving a geography lesson. On the one hand, you don't want to have your characters moving through an empty scene with just the few props they directly interact with; but you don't want to bore the reader so they skip to the next dialogue scene. If you just stick to the here and now you'll create this mental picture in your reader's mind:
 Image result for kipper the dog
When you want to create a world that looks more like this:
Image result for fantasy world
  This brings us to the next point.
  I'm just going to assume that at the moment you are sitting at the computer reading this post, (Just a wild guess) and if you were to look around you will probably notice a random assortment of items lying about. You might even notice something that wasn't there before! But all this is kind of irrelevant since you are trying to read this post within a decent amount of time. Congratulations! You have just discovered the next important key to creating a world. Sure, if you sit down and write down every nook and cranny that is in your character's field of sight, you're going to get a pretty detailed setting. (think Les Miserable) But not all of those things are relevant to the story. You're character most likely isn't investigating every corner of the butcher shop while he's talking to a persnickety butcher about a strange blue rock. (if you catch the reference, please comment!) There will be a few things that the character notices right away - like the bad lighting, the smell, or even the strange way the butcher keeps the shop - but he wont identify every pork chop on display or how many windows there are. 
   Giving the character a world to interact with draws the reader in so they can actually see what the character sees. But the way the character sees things will change depending on the mood the character is in. The same rain storm can be a dismal downpour for a heartbroken young man and a refreshing and life giving shower for a traveler crossing the desert. Same rain, different view. A bedroom can be a prison or a refuge depending on if they are locked in by their evil step-mother or hiding from the chaos of the family with six siblings. Everything is subject to how the character perceives it; and as the author, it is your job to step into your character's shoes to visualize it and write it down for your reader.
    Here is another simple checklist to help make your world real for you and your reader!
  1. Does your world have a capital city with surrounding tows/villages? (This applies to fantasy and realistic writers alike.) Everything has to have a home base, and obviously this is where most of the story will be taking place. But to make a true world there is more out there than what the village boy can see. Even if your story takes place in one city alone, bringing in a few travelers that mention other cities can help broaden the view.
  2. Is every town different? If every town offers the same stores and shops then the character should have just stayed at home. Some cities are more beautiful than others, while some might be more sketchy. Depending on how far your character travels the people might even change! (especially for fantasy writers!) 
  3. Are you paying attention to the weather? I know this might sound a little weird, but nothing gets more annoying than the book where it is always one weather. Changing up the forecast can present some great challenges for your character. Who knows! A heavy rain could cause a landslide that changes your character's whole life!
  4. Is your character noticing his/her environment, or are you sounding like a narrator? This falls back on that old and familiar saying, "Show. Don't Tell." I don't care how many times you've heard this said! Everything should be seen and perceived through the eyes of the character.
  5. Does the mood of the scenery change? If your story is starting to sound monotonous to you, it's going to bore your readers to tears! As the author, you should be one of the most interested people in this book! You already know everything about your book so make each scene give you that same heart thrill that the last one did or break your heart worse than before. 
  Take some time to give your book a fresh look every time to sit down to write! The story line is important, and so is the character, but they need a world for them and the reader to live in! The fog infested field ripe for battle may be setting your heart thumping with the next battle scene, but it will leave your character lost if you don't explain it!

Well, that's all for now! Stay tuned for the last post in this series. The story is next!

If you have any ideas and thoughts, please share! Wisdom and experience grow when they are passed along to others!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Digging Deeper: Characters

In my last post on my characters I touched lightly upon the seriousness of having depth and meaning in your book. So in this post I really want to drive that point home because depth has a very broad meaning. Whether it's talking about your characters, story plots, or (if you are writing fantasy) the world you created, you need to make it real! Planning is a huge aspect of this.
(I, personally, love to use Evernote to store all my everythings! From story plots and characters to the Lorien Language and clothing names, it's all there in one place.)
When you're writing, you're not just making a story (Although that's the main objective) you're taking the reader into a new world to go on a grand adventure! (so don't forget your handkerchiefs)
 Image result for bilbo i forgot my handkerchief
To start you have Characters:
    As soon as you start to write about a character, that person needs to become as real as your friends and family. Every little thing about them makes the character live and breath.
But it all has to be within the context of the story. You can't start talking about how much your character loves burritos in the middle of a complex dialogue that reveals the character's history. What you could do, is talk about how the burritos reminded him of his mother's cooking, therefor leading him into the deep waters of memory. Be complex. Don't distract.
You characters have a personality, a preference, and an objective that needs to influence every choice the they makes. This is where it gets tricky for the author. You have to literally step into your characters footwear (which changes depending on what time period, genre, and scenario you're writing in) to grasp who they are. You have to get into their head to hear what they are thinking. You are no longer sitting in your chair writing and thinking about what you might do - you have to be your characters and think of what they would do.

Because of reading...:
    That's why character arcs are so important. People who don't change never move any further than where they are right now, so your story doesn't progress and your characters remain as simply little puppets. When you write, don't just create a character - create a living person! Someone who can go through the same struggles we face in our day to day lives. If you're character struggles with loyalty, let them find somebody worth dying for. If you character struggles with doubt, let them find confidence!
   Here's a simple checklist to see how deep your character is.
  1. Is your character's thinking unique from your other characters? If it isn't, this is a good indicator that your character is blending in with the crowd, which is not a good thing. 
  2. Does your character have a preference? Everybody is on a side. Whether it's with the crowd, against the crowd, or on their own, your character needs to know what he/she believes in. Don't make a hamster running around in a wheel but never going anywhere.
  3. What is a random thing that your character does when he/she is nervous? When I read books that have deep characters, they all have that one little nervous quirk. It's just like real people. My brother waves his hands by his side when he's excited, whereas I tend to have a nervous leg twitch. 
  4. Does your character struggle with something? Everybody has a personal struggle that needs to be overcome. Whether it's doubt, stubbornness, anger, or fear is dependent on how you want your story line to go. The character's struggle needs to be overcome throughout the story and it is this attribute that shapes everything. Choose wisely!
  5. Last but no least: Is your character thinking and talking? It's far to easy to just go along with the story and never give a thought to your character's mental world. Or the opposite and they spend all their time thinking and never talking. In a stressful situation where there is nobody to talk to, the character can still think. In an intense scene between two foes, they should never stay silent. When something confusing comes up he/she needs to reason it out. When there is a quiet moment between two friends, they need to share their feelings. Writing out your character's thoughts allows the reader to step inside the character's head and so "become" that character. Making your character talk allows the character to guide the reader through the story and not have it told to them like a history lesson.
If one or more of these things is missing from your book, I highly suggest you step back and take a fresh look at your story. You may have all the in's and out's of your story so settled in your mind that it seems deep and perfectly reasonable; but to a fresh set of eyes where those details are not apparent in black and white, the story can seem shallow and weak. The reader will get a hint that there is something deeper, but will always wonder what unless you write it into your character's personality. (And trust me, that drives a reader crazy!)

Come back next week and we'll get into the complexity of creating a world for your character! (this applies to fantasy writers and non-fantasy writers alike!)

What attributes make characters real to you? Please drop a comment down below and share!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thought Bubble ('s)


Hello Everybody! 
(yes, yes, I know the gif is random. But it's the only one that shows what's going on inside my head)

   Once again, life has gotten in the way of my blogging. Between finishing High school, work, and other life-thingies, I haven't had a spare moment to write! 

   But that hasn't stopped my mind from thinking.
And thinking I have most certainly been doing.

    The only problem with being a sporadic - and slightly nutty - jack-of-all trades is that my thoughts can range anywhere from super depressing to an idea that could very well land me in the loony bin. (Unfortunately those are usually the ideas that sound like the most fun, so I do them. No, I am not insane) 
     So here you have 20 thoughts I think in a day.
Please Note: This post has absolutely no purpose outside of hopefully making you laugh and realize that writers might be as crazy as you think we are.

  1. How fast can I eat breakfast before work? (Ditched it and grabbed a granola bar to eat on the way)
  2. How much I would rather not get trampled by a horse. (Explanation of crazy thought: I'm a horse trainer/exerciser) 
  3. When on earth am I going to get the music that I'm playing for church. (*Computer goes Bing* "Aaaand there it is!") New thought: Dare I try and sing them?
  4. Character development for Reynold. (e.g How is he going to fall in love with a traitor, reconcile with his evil brother, deal with his dying friend, make peace with the mystrious Farlinians, come up with battle plans and nearly get killed, and a zillion other thoughts while I'm being dragged around by a horse. It's really rather invigorating.)
  5. Which characters should I kill in my book. (The mind of an author is a dark and twisted place)
  6. What I should do with my chainmail. (Explanation of crazy thought: I made a chainmail suite out of soda tabs. It took over 2,000.) 
  7. How long will it take for me to get the nerve to tan the deer hide in my freezer. (I need it to make a jerking for my chainmail.)
  8. Dare I risk learning to front flip on the ground? (Because doing it, and a backflip, on the trampoline is getting old.) 
  9. How can I satisfy my sugar craving without actually eating sugar? (Solution: Frozen fruit and cream. At least I'm not hungry anymore)
  10. I'll just cross my neighbor's creek to get to the barn. (This was a really dumb idea because the creek is still swollen from snow melt and moving at the speed of a small river. If you're thinking I fell in you can pat yourself on the back. Yes, I did fall in. Yes, it was very cold. And yes, I will probably do it again.)
  11. I really need to work on school and stop blogging. (I ignored that thought.)
  12. I need to finish my mom's Mother's Day present.
  13. I really want to read a book and pretend that school doesn't exist.
  14. Sugar craving is back.
  15. Realize that I speak the hardest language on the face of the earth. (I'm going my English) 
  16. Wonder what else I'm thinking about...
  17. What am I going to post next? 
  18. Which Parkour move would be the simplest to learn yet still look really cool? 
  19. I hate Algebra.
  20. I need to avoid the computer because it's addicting.

 So there you have it. Actually, those are all the thoughts I think before 12 and then I spend the rest of the day cycling through them a hundred times. Life is good!
Up next, though, I'm going to start a series on digging deeper into planning a book. (Something that has taken me several years to learn) Hopefully I will have that up next week. (But with the way my thoughts run I'm never sure until the day of!) 

Do you ever get any crazy thoughts? (Better yet, did you act on your crazy thought?) Feel free to drop a comment below!