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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Ultimate Character Inventory for Building Genuine Characters

If thousands of hours of editing has taught me one thing, it's that most of the changes made to a manuscript, and most of what makes a story strong, is in creating realistic characters. This shows through when
1) everything your character says is true to who he is
2) all of the verbage used to describe his actions fits his character (the difference between a 'pranceing' or 'sauntering' character, for example)

3) his actions follow his values and personality
4) one can imagine his past/future/present by knowing the information you’ve given

It is aso, it is crucial that your character is complex, and that he breaks the boundaries of his usual traits to become a more rounded person. For example:

1) The quiet character who hides her feelings but then places them all in art/writing/music.
2) The loud character faced with a situation that has left him unable to talk about his feelings.
3) The calm character who, after dealing with too much, becomes suddenly furious.

4) The martinet who finds a vice in _____.

Of course, these also have to be believable. BUT, if you follow all of these things, your characters should read as genuine people who readers will find interest in and relate to. Below are a variety of tables to help you get a better grasp on who your character is. Half are simple, circle which answer applies, tables, and the others allow you to fill in the blanks.
Is your character:


Loud
Or
Quiet
Emotive
Or
nonchalant
Impatient
Or
Patient
Spiritual
Or
Not spiritual
Easily angered
Or
Calm
More artistic
Or
More logical
Romantic
Or
Not romantic
The jealous type
Or
Not easily jealous
Pretentious
Or
Grounded
Optimistic
Or
Pessimistic
More arrogant
Or
More humble
Open-minded
Or
Insular
Trusting
Or
Suspicious
Faithful
Or
Unfaithful
Power hungry
Or
Not
 
Does your character


Say what's on his mind
Or
Cover up his feelings
Act impulsively
Or
Overthink situations
Want to be swept off his feet
Or
Want to be in control
Keep secrets
Or
Believe honesty is the best policy
Focus on the past or future
Or
Stay grounded in the present
Rely on friends
Or
Keep to himself
Have many good friends
Or
Just a few close ones
Have a fresh view on life
Or
A jaded view
Care what others think
Or
Do whatever he/she wants
Think of life as a puzzle
Or
An untameable adventure
The following are fill in the blanks, but for the 1st one, I gave examples from various characters in my manuscripts.

 
Your character believes that:


Lying is…

never okay
Hurting others is…

necessary to keep them in their place
Being happy is…

impossible
Being alone is…

good every once and a while to stay grounded
Friends are…

how we survive
Love is…

everything now that I've found her
Rules are…

meant to be broken
Mysteries are..

meant to be left alone.


Character's First:

Love:

Heartbreak:

Adventure:

Puzzle/Real Quandary:



Your Character would:
Give up everything for:
Say his motto is:
Question everything if:
Fall in love with/if:
Lose his mind if:
Act opposite his character if:
Say he is who he is because of:
Say he wakes up every morning because:
Blame his shortcomings on:

For more ideas for character development you may want to check out :
Why Your Rough Draft Still Doesn't Feel Right and How to Fix It

Click for The Ultimate Manuscript Editing Checklist

Good Luck!

And please feel free to leave more ideas via comments!

<3 Gina Blechman

Monday, October 10, 2011

Being a Writer vs Being Someone Who Writes

Ten months ago, you might not have known that I was a writer, though you may have known me as a person who writes. I did not know that there was a difference between these two things. I had written a manuscript. I had run a writing group for three years. I was a writer...right?

But though I spent hundreds of hours a year writing and working on my first manuscript, I was not actively writing towards anything. I wrote to get to the end of what I was writing. It was a hobby that I had always hoped would turn into more, but wasn't sure I was ready to take seriously at only 18 years old. Who would really want to read what I wrote anyway?

And then it all changed. I created an independent study course on the steps to becoming published. I started a blog to get my thoughts out there and to connect with others like me. I spent hundreds more hours not just writing but searching for agents and sending out queries. When that was unsuccessful, I wrote a new manuscript, spent hundreds more hours, found critique partners, and then beta readers to look over the 'final' product. And though most of this has happened solitarily, outside of my external, student/friend/employee life, I've started to realize how external it has become.

All of my friends and family know now that I am working on a manuscript that I take very seriously, and they know that I'm trying to get published. They know all the terms--beta reader, WIP, manuscript, agent--because I use them constantly. They know that, based on my first beta reader's comments, I really think this book might be the one.

When people ask me where I want to be in ten or twenty years, I say writing as my primo, my number one, dream. And in these months, without realizing it, I went from being someone who writes, to being a true, live-by-the-pen-die-by-the-pen writer.

You don't have to be published to be a writer. You don't even have to have an agent. You can be anyone and live anywhere. Being a writer is about knowing within yourself that you can't live without writing, that you write to live and live to write, and that, regardless of your present scenario, you are working towards a life where writing can reasonably come on the top of your list.

How bout you? Feeling writerly today?

<3 Gina

Monday, October 3, 2011

Off to the Betas: Manuscript's 1st Big Day in the Real World

It's time.

I've done it.

After 5 months and nearly a thousand hours in writing and editing, my manuscript is ready (if you can ever say such a thing) to send to my beta readers. It's been through every damn thing a manuscript can possibly go through with critique partners and personal editing. And yet, the first time you send it off to 'real' practice readers, into the 'real' world, it's always nerve wracking.

It's like sending your little kindergartener off to her first day of school. You've worked out her tantrums. You've helped boost her confidence. Supported her sense of individuality. Instilled your values and parental love. You know, of course, it's gonna be fine. But still...you worry.

What if they don't like her? What if she comes home crying? What if that problem you thought you worked out with her just last week comes back to the surface. Sure, you can go through it again. You've got more than enough time to help her get through her problems, and at least seven more years before she enters her teen angst stage. But that doesn't make it any easier. Because she's still your baby.

I've tried rockin it out with my headphones on and swallowing it it down along with butter cookies dipped in nutella. I've tried long walks to destress and, because I can't help myself, going over it just one more time. (And then one more...And one more...) Today, I play to talk to my best friend and ally in writing knowing that that'll do the trick.

But tell me, how do you deal with it?

<3 Gina Blechman