Category Archives: Character

Procrastination

I think we all do procrastination in various forms - the oven that suddenly requires cleaning urgently, letters that need to be written and cats that must be played with before sitting down to write. In this guest post Amanda Scott outlines how she uses procrastination for character development.
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Character and Story Via Procrastination

by Amanda Scott

I always feel an uncomfortable twinge of guilt when leaving my work-in-progress to watch my favorite seasons of Doctor Who. This is time that could be spent writing. However, it allows me to combine my two great loves: writing and the BBC. Like many I think about my writing and its elements all the time. I’m always looking for new sources of conflict, listening to the dialogue of strangers, catching onto accents and dialects, or observing mannerisms and gaits. It was inevitable that my writing obsession would converge with my BBC time. For the next few hundred words I would like to justify the catalyst of procrastination.

“I become ridiculously attached to characters”

Doctor Who is a specific weakness of mine and I confess I enjoy the modern (2005-present) Doctor Who over classic. I will also confess that I become ridiculously attached to characters- the characters of my own creation, characters in books and the characters of my TV shows. I offer no apologies for this because, after all, isn’t the point of ANY story to create a character(s) that people will root for and find sympathetic? I love The Doctor character and adored the way David Tennant portrayed him. When the inescapable reality of his replacement drew near; I almost stopped watching the show because I was sure that I could never see anyone else as The Doctor. Behold! The next Doctor came and I found myself willing to believe this was the same man in a different form. When this happened my writer’s mind started deconstructing this conundrum (it was a conundrum to me anyhow.) I realized the character of the Doctor was so strong and so well written that everything I enjoy about him (confidence, humor, adventurous spirit, kindness, and a sense of wonder) was still intact. It is a testament to great writing to have a different embodiment and not lose the fundamental character. The reliability of the character makes you feel close to him; as if you actually knew him. This is how close I want my readers to feel to my characters. I’m sure you can say something for the actor as well but people talk about them enough already. We see this with Sherlock Holmes too, a character so strong that he transcends time and form (novels, movies and TV adaptations.) character intact. All the time showing that a reliable character does not mean a entirely predictable one and let’s never confuse a character’s arc with inconsistent character. See all the inspiration from procrastination? In fear of getting out of my depth I will not over explain the non-predictable yet reliable character. You will know it when you read it, which is why writers must do a great deal of reading.

“We always know what he will not do while still getting to wonder what he will do”

Although the Doctor Who character is written for television; which is different from novels, but all the elements of the story still apply and one of those elements is a character. Someone wrote this character so well that multiple writers, plots lines and actors have a clear idea of who this character is - his motivations, his driving force, his weaknesses and his inner demons. We always know what he will not do while still getting to wonder what he will do. So the next time you want to loaf in front of your TV you may call it research, enjoy your time, and then get back to work.

Tips

  1. Turn procrastination into inspiration!
  2. A good character is worth their weight in publishing contracts (or gold. Whichever you like).
  3. Writing is a maneuvering of paradoxes and Time Lords.
  4. Videogames. Yes, you read that right, the age of ‘videogames rotting brains’ is over. Like it or not; video games are created by writers and artists, and therefore is an art form.
    • Assassins Creed- Character, visuals, plot
    • The Elder Scrolls- Especially for fantasy writers
    • Minecraft- for landscapes and creative stimulus
    • Halo Reach (my preference.) Scifi, teamwork, plot, and guns.

This is such a small list and these are popular games that I love and have found helpful. Go to your local gaming store or online (I recommend STEAM). Ask or look for something that fits your work in progress. I am working on a paranormal romance that involves traveling through Dante’s Inferno. Guess what? There is a game for that! You can also find the soundtracks to these games on YouTube. They are beautiful and inspiring.

Stories are everywhere and in everything. Happy writing and happy procrastinating.

What a great post, Amanda! What do readers feel about using procrastination as an engine to drive character and story? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and share with your friends.

 

Jody Zimmerman - character development guest post headshot

Character Development | Creating the Psychology of a Character

“psychology drives behaviour”

Just like in real people, psychology drives behaviour in fictional characters. Character development requires an intimate knowledge of one's character's inner workings! In today's how to be an author guest post, Jody Zimmerman outlines his own approach to the psychology of a character.

Love and Fear - How Psychology Drives a Story

by Jody Zimmerman

Jody Zimmerman - character development guest post headshotInnumerable things, both real and imaginary, can drive a story.

My particular interest as a storyteller is the human condition, and I find myself drawn to authors who have the gift of formulating well developed characters.

It is hard to find a better-developed character in literature than Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina — the reason, I believe, so many great writers admire Tolstoy and his ability to delve into the human psyche and deliver it beautifully in sentences.

Anna Karenina seemingly had it all: beauty, wealth, and power over men. So what was it in her make-up, her inner-self that ultimately propelled her to throw herself in front of a train?
Psychology provides the answer and is also the palette with which Tolstoy develops his characters and drives his story in Anna Karenina.

The great psychologist Abraham Maslow set forth the theory that human beings are primarily motivated by fulfilling needs beginning with basic physiological needs like food and shelter and progressing up a hierarchy of higher needs including safety, love, esteem and culminating in self-actualization, where each person reaches his or her full potential as a human being.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for Character Development

character development graphic - maslow's hierarchy of needs
In a perfect world, Maslow may be correct. However, my life experiences and years of participating in and observing psychological group therapy sessions, have shown me that most people never make it to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy—something derails most of us. But, what exactly is it?

My study and practice of hatha yoga for thirteen years led me to the compassionate and learned yogi, Lisa Goodwin. She believes that there are only two basic human emotions: love and fear. All other emotions germinate from these two.

Lisa’s teachings sparked an epiphany in my body, mind, and spirit, enabling me to drive my own stories through psychological character development, portraying how so often fear and its abundant manifestations smother the love within each of us, driving us along paths we could never imagine, paths not resembling Maslow’s Hierarchy whatsoever.

Think of all the inner fears within Anna Karenina that sparked conflagrations of self-doubt, jealously, sadness, and insecurity, so much so that they covered the love deep within her heart, driving her to suicide.

My protagonist in Blood Brothers, Philip Hampton, is driven by fears locked deep within him, hidden away so completely that they are unknown to his consciousness. And yet, one glimpse of his brother’s final painting and years of childhood sexual abuse flood his memory and my story progresses.

Lisa Goodwin’s theory of love and fear may seem too simplistic on first glance, but it is its elementary nature that is so exquisite and so beautiful. Our universe is one of light and darkness; love is light and fear is darkness.

“Illuminating the darkness with light is the core of so many religions”

Illuminating the darkness with light is the core of so many religions. It is also the core of understanding the complexities of the human spirit. And even though many great stories end in tragedies, recognizing and understanding the fear responsible for those tragedies and how replacing that fear with love benefits us all as human beings is the mark of great literature.

What are your thoughts about character development through psychology? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have a blog, click the "commentluv" box to share a link to your own latest blog posts.

M Peters book characters author photo

Book Characters: Compelling Characterization Through Research

Compelling book characters - believable, breathing characters - are a constant challenge to a writer. Touching the reader's heart, drawing them into identifying with book characters and leaving a lingering trace of them in readers' lives, all this is often a matter of research, as Morgann Peters describes in today's How to be an Author guest post.
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The Writer's Inner Journey to Compelling Book Characters

by M Peters

M Peters book characters author photoAs a writer, I'm not sure I spend enough time talking about myself, or the process I use to sink into my book characters' heads, but while I was picking up dinner last night and listening to the local NPR station, I heard someone interviewing an author named Bill Cheng and asking him how he managed to create scenes based around something he himself had never, ever experienced, and the answer struck a chord with me.

“enrich his writing”

His subject was surrounding that of the effects of the devastating 1927 Mississippi flood and the story he created around the survival of one orphaned boy. His connection to the story - and what inspired him to write it - was the blues music which gained its foothold around that time. He goes on to say, after being asked in the interview, how someone from New York City, who's never been anywhere near a swamp, could create such wonderful, memorable characters, that while he realises that the hours and hours of research he was involved in while writing the book didn't all translate into his work, it did enrich his writing because it gave him a confidence he needed to write compelling scenes. It seasoned him as a writer, to be able to learn all sorts of things about the time period and the people about whom he was writing, and enabled him to create compelling stories based around these tidbits of research.

And I think that's a huge part of the writer's inner journey - that we need to become comfortable with the people and places about whom we're writing. Even if we're creating an entirely alternate, fantasy universe, there are still details which need to be placed in there to give our narrative voices the confidence to fool our readers into thinking that we know what we're talking about.

“I had traveled along the same roads with them even as I created their joys and sorrows”

Personally, I love learning about the time in which I write. My first novel, Undisclosed Desire, took me nearly a year to write because I felt I wasn't crawling quite far enough into the characters' time - some vague place in the mid sixteenth century - to give myself a grasp on what they were seeing. So I hopped on to the research train and spent some time with Google and various historical sites, getting to know what my characters wore and saw and ate ... and suddenly, I felt much more in control. I had traveled along the same roads with them even as I created their joys and sorrows, just by discovering that their nightdresses were made of silk or that the apples they ate were called 'custard apples' because of their sweet taste.

“more likely to come back for seconds and thirds of the author's work”

There are, of course, two sides to something like this. If we bog our readers down with details, then we lose the flow of the story. Which is why I think it's important that the research the author does infuses the author more than ends up in the writing itself. A little bit of research goes a long, long way, after all, and it infuses the author's writing with flavour and authenticity that readers like myself find intriguing. Perhaps I can't speak for every reader, but I enjoy being drawn into the world of the characters about whom I'm reading, and if the author can show me that he or she has taken the time to craft the world, and love it so well that they have endeavored to learn about the people and places they are creating, then I'm certainly more likely to come back for seconds and thirds of the author's work. Do any of you feel that way? Tell me in the comments below! And, most of all, thank you for coming along on this journey with me - I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

How do you research your work? Do you just write? Or do you, like Mo Peters, research carefully to give yourself the background to "enrich your writing"?

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