Obstacle #3: Character(s)

Hoozah, I made it to a third post!

As I mentioned in my last post, I inspired myself by mentioning creating characters. Well, it sounds very duh, as they’re essential to a good story, but I hear there’s a method to that madness, or rather, several methods.

This is where I must come clean… I don’t really adhere to methods or conventions, but that’ll be further discussed in next week’s post.

So, when you come up with a story idea, does the story develop itself first or the character(s)? Or do you come up with a character first and the story develops from there? Does it ever happen simultaneously? I think I get the story first but I feel half the time is simultaneous, but regardless, we all have to create characters at some point or another.

There are many ways to create characters, starting from the basic information (name, age, hair/eye/skin color, spoken languages, ancestry, strengths, weaknesses, ticks, mannerisms, etc) and gradually working your way up and through until anyone can toss any situation at you and you could write your character’s response without pondering “Well, would s/he really do that though? What about ____?”

I get that there are “templates” or worksheets out there, I have a few myself. And while they might help in the beginning, I don’t find myself using them a whole lot. (I’m trying though, do I get a gold star?) I don’t know if I can’t or if I just don’t like it, but half the time I write (when the muses sing loud enough) things just come out, whether I anticipated them or not. (Needless to say revisions are necessary…) The characters take a life of their own, and from there, I don’t really need to spend hours creating them because– they just are. (Is that weird or do you know what I’m talking about?)

But I admit, I’m not particularly good at writing characters whose age ranges far beyond mine (aka children or 30+ adults?), perhaps mostly because I haven’t really tried (yet). Maybe that’ll come just as easily after more observation and imagination? I’ll let you know after I give it a shot. πŸ˜‰

Next up, villains! They’re characters too, and just as important (if not sometimes more) as the main character(s). What makes a compelling villain? Reasoning beyond their madness, or whatever afflicts them. What’s scarier, some crazy guy who loves stabbing people in the face, or some well-respected doctor who can’t stop experimenting on humans? I’d go with the second, but it depends on the story, setting, and extent of the villain’s part in the plot and just about everything else?

There’s a lot I’m not touching on, because… of… lack of time? Also I don’t know if I could pick and ‘discuss’ everything that goes in character creation, because frankly, it takes a while. “Practice makes perfect” they say, and– well, yeah. Maybe notΒ ‘perfect’ perfect, but at least it leads to improvement! (If it doesn’t, um… I don’t know, go in forums, get a beta, take a class?)

So, tell me. How do you make create your characters? Do you extensively use worksheets? Do you not prepare anything at all and just wing it? Who’s your favorite villain? (Oops, I don’t know my own answer…)


Obstacle #2: P.O.V, 1st vs 3rd person

Second post of my Obstacle Series. I think I’ll post them on Fridays, that way I have a weekend and the week to mull over the topic… IF I can find more topics. (Hint hint: give me suggestions!)

Today’s topic is point of view! Whether you’re writing for your high school/college English class with a carte blanche topic or writing a story you want to submit to a contest, you probably wonder sometimes about which P.O.V to use. (Oh you don’t? Great, see you next week!)

Let’s look at our most common options: 1st and 3rd person. Unless you’re writing a “choose your own adventure” book (and/or fanfiction), I don’t think you use 2nd person P.O.V.

Please note I made ‘protagonist’ plural for simplicity’s sake (no “his/her” thing, it gets old).

1st person P.O.V

You write from the protagonists’ P.O.V’s (most commonly, from what I’ve read anyway), and unless your protagonists refer to themselves in 3rd person, you’ll be writing with “I.”

Everything is from the protagonists’ perspectives, so you don’t need to – and it’d be rather hard to – describe them (physically, personality, etc) in great lengths. Their actions, thoughts and observations do it for you. You can, and probably will anyway, use other characters/rumors/remarks/etc to give your readers a broad overview of their appearance, social status and the likes. (The Hunger Games come to mind.)

It can also be easier to relate to the protagonists and really get familiar and comfortable with them – unless you’re writing characters readers aren’t meant to relate to at all, then by all means.

Every P.O.V has a downside, and of course there are many styles including different narration (omniscient vs limited), but bias comes to mind. After all, everything is from your protagonist’s eyes, so usually readers will side with her/him. (Or is that just me? I feel like half of my friends are more– opinionated when they read than I am, but to each his/her their own.) Then there’s the downside of not being able to describe what ‘s happening at the same time in another town, etc, without breaking away from 1st person P.O.V because it’s limited to your protagonists’ here-and-now (or in the past) moments.

There are ways to get around it, of course, especially the more you write and read. (I should really be taking my own advice half the time.) I don’t know if for some writers it requires cunning or it’s just normal. Hmm.

3rd person P.O.V

You thought of a character, and you want to follow them in their adventure(s). Great. You’ll be using s/he and their names. (Harry Potter comes to mind.)

Unlike 1st person P.O.V, you’ll probably end up describing them to some degree, either as an introduction or still via other characters. Their actions and thoughts will still provide glimpses into their minds, but since you (or someone) are narrating, you can offer suggestions or raise questions the protagonists can’t or don’t see at the moment. (See note.)

Other events (aka plot) might be mentioned in a brief interlude or description in relation to X, but it can be woven in, sometimes so subtly readers might miss it if they blink. Readers can pick which character they like most without the protagonists’ P.O.V’s biases getting in the way.

So, 3rd person P.O.V’s downside? For some, itΒ can be harder to relate to the protagonists without reading “I” or “me,” and it might not feel as if the readers were in the story themselves. (But that might also depend on how good the writer is?) Depending on preferences, there might be too much or too little narrator ‘interference.’

Note: There’s still the question of omniscient vs limited, but either I’ll get to that in a later post or completely bypass it.

It’s a hard choice to make as it affects the entirety of your story! Both of my posted short stories are 1st person P.O.V for some reason. If you’ve read them, do you think they would’ve read the same had they been in 3rd person?

  • Which P.O.V do you prefer?
  • Which P.O.V is your default when you write?
  • Why?
Work in Progress Feedback

What do you think about alternating P.O.V chapter? It’s not uncommon for chapters to be narrated (either 1st or 3rd) by alternating character, so how would you feel if one chapter was 1st person and the next 3rd person? I’m debating this option for my short story, but I haven’t really read it… If you have suggestions, please let me know!

That’s all from me this week, I might’ve inspired myself for next week’s topic. Stay tuned!

Obstacle #1: Words, feedback and languages

I might or might not be starting a “series” based on varying obstacles we face while writing. I don’t want to make a promise in case I break it, but I’ll try to update at least a few of these.

If you’re a writer, and most us have to be at some point, you know the pain of picking the “right” word. Should I use ‘accumulate,’ ‘gather,’ ‘procure,’ or ‘acquire?’ Which one sounds better? Which meaning is closest to what I intend to say or portray?

Fortunately and unfortunately, the answer(s) lies with us, the writers! We might ask (and/or plead) for feedback, but the ultimate decision is ours alone. That’s not to say never ask for feedback, because we need it, don’t we? (Props to you if you don’t, but I do.) Isn’t that why we ended up here, on WordPress? πŸ˜‰Β  I’m guilty of asking friends to read something, get their feedback and then realize their point of view and agree to make changes when I feel they need to happen.

It’s quite a fine line between listening to your audience’s feedback and believing in your intuition and vision. (Somebody please tell me this gets better the more you write…) Where do you draw the line? It’s not without reason writers get told to “kill your babies.” We’re biased, even after multiple revisions one specific sentence can still sound perfect and it couldn’t possibly get any better. Or couldn’t it?

Now, say you create something awesome and currently non-existent, but you lack the words for it. Do you…

  • name it with already existing words?
  • take a word and modify it slightly?
  • make up your own new words?
  • look for it in another language and use or modify that?

Tolkien invented Elvish, and Marc Okrand designed Klingon. While I’d love to do that, it probably requires more work than I can put in right now. It’s not uncommon to use less-known languages and pretend it’s something entirely different, although perhaps that’s easier in films than writing. For instance, in Star Wars: A New Hope, the language Greedo speaks to Han Solo is actually a simplified version of Quechua. I remember getting a kick out of that in Linguistics. Just like “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a perfectly grammatically correct sentence. Oh, syntax class…

Work in progress feedback

In the meantime, for my short story, I find myself blending words — which I guess is the same as creating? I know two and a half languages, after all, so why not use them? I’ve come up with a rather simple method: look up the same word(s) in different languages and rearrange some syllables until I’m satisfied with a few results. It is rather time consuming, but I feel like it’ll be a great help for the story’s setting.

Interested? Stay tuned, I’ll probably start posting more things under “Work in progress” and asking for feedback. =) In the meantime, let me know what you do when you write! Thanks for dropping by!

Nice to meet you!

Hello there! Or perhaps welcome back?

I can’t believe I’m already updating, but I can see how dangerously addicting this can get… So, what writing have I accomplished since yesterday after spending hours configuring, revamping and updating my blog? None. Well, unless you count this, does this count? I have added a widget, which allows you to follow me via email! (Should be visible on the right side of this page, at the top.) This should do the trick until I can figure out a mailing list. Speaking of which– any tips?

I sent out a mass e-mail to friends announcing this blog’s launch and the response so far has been very encouraging. (Maybe because my friends are awesome people?) But even before that, I was very surprised (pleasantly so!) to see I had somehow gained two followers and a few likes. Wow, thank you! ❀

Maybe it’s because my other blog about Japan and travel has been getting little attention, but I’m not used to near-immediate response(s)! But that’s a good change, so save your worries, I shall adapt.

Now, since I’m still getting back into the whole writing groove and it might take me a while to give you anything new, I was hoping to get more familiar with you, my audience. But before I get to know you, I guess you have to know more about me first. It’s the law of equivalent exchange, isn’t it Ed? (Yes, I’m unabashedly referencing manga/anime. Sorry, I’m not sorry.)

So how did I get into writing? Great question, I wish I could tell you. My only response right now would be “As a child I always made up stories, whether with legos, barbies, polly pockets, playmobils, stuffed animals or an empty garden.” And that’s true, but I don’t remember doing much writing during that time, I was just creating.

When I moved from France to California and entered high school, I discovered anime. I had seen a few Miyazaki movies before, but not really TV shows. Needless to say, I got hooked. Quickly. Life outside of school, friends and music became internet and anime (those aren’t mutually inclusive/exclusive, but work together often). But then, I discovered fanfiction. Uh oh. I got sucked into that vortex, too.

The rest is history, as they say. (Who are they anyway, and why do they know so much?) From anime I switched to dramas for a while (mostly Japanese and Korean, but a few Taiwanese ones too), and curiously enough, when I moved to Japan, I completely switched to American/British TV shows. (I partially blame a friend for this, you know who you are! :P) Somewhere in between, I’d “stopped” writing. I was too slow, too picky, too pissed off by X circumstance(s) to feel like writing anything or some other excuses reasons.

But I’m tired of lying to myself, and no one but me is going to write whatever’s in my head. Thus, here I am, at the point of rolling back my sleeves to just write it. And I have a few worries…

  • I never feel like I’m using the right tags… I guess “writing” and “author” are good starters. (How did you find me so quickly?)
  • I’m afraid I’ll stop updating in a timely manner, especially since I almost feel like I’m over updating right now. Would you get bored if I updated only once a month? (On the plus side, more free time for you!)
  • I don’t even know what genre I write! Right now I don’t really care, I just want to write what’s in my head, but when I get to the self-publishing stage… I’ll ask you again.
  • I’m not sure how to involve you in my writing process. I feel like this warrants yet another post, so I’ll go prepare that one after I post this.

I look forward to your comments! =)

Open for business!

What a grand, exhausting day today was. My 3rd year students graduated (tears were shed and laughter shared), I figured out (some of) this WordPress business, and in the matter of a single day, preparations are complete!

If you go over to my Library page, you’ll see a drop down menu with strange-ish names. Yep, those are my short stories’ titles! But check the Library page first (it’s short, I promise) and keep the bullet points in mind when you do get a chance to check out my stories. =)

I’m incredibly excited, and a little scared to be honest, but mostly excited. So maybe I won’t update story wise a lot, but I think I’ll update my News section more often because I have a lot of questions for you readers, so get ready!


Baby steps

I’ve taken another baby step towards my dream of becoming a writer. Although technically, I’m already a writer, so let’s say a (soon to be) published writer?

Updates will most likely be slow – not only because my perfectionist side gets in my way, I get in my own way too – but mostly because a) I’m still figuring out this whole WordPress business, and b) I’m still not sure exactly how I’m going to ‘publish’ anything because what I had in mind was radically different. So, with that in mind, don’t expect something new every week.

Comments and feedback I love, so if you read something of mine and just can’t help yourself, by all means, let me know what my writing did to you, and I’ll bake you a (n internet) cookie! πŸ˜‰