Tag Archives: characters

Writing Characters With Dyslexia Part 2!

Last year I wrote my most viewed article, Writing characters with dyslexia. Today I’ve come back to clarify and expand on writing these quirky characters. Keep in mind, this is how my dyslexia affects me and it might not be the same for others.

First, The science

So when you think synapses are fired in your brain. That triggers another one to fire and the chain is what creates the way you process the world around you. (At least that’s my understanding.) So when someone who is dyslexic thinks the same thought, different synapses fire and it takes longer for us to figure out the same information.

This also means we can come up with ideas others never would!

We think about each idea longer and think about it differently that normal people would. This ends up in us coming up with out of the box ideas and odd ways of doing things. For instance, my dad and I are picking up pinecones, he holds open the bag and tosses them inside. I go find a box and put the trash bag inside it to act as a trash can outdoors, my way is much easier. This principle is also true for concepts. Someone reviewed a novel I plotted out and told me the idea was too complex for normal people to fallow.

Dyslexics are usually called 3D thinkers.

I can imagine what a room looks like from any angle without walking there. I can figure out what it would look like to be shorter, taller, on the ceiling, upside down, all while sitting in one place. I never get lost walking around Chicago. When I leave a building my mind always forms a mental map of how to get back home. I can never give anyone directions though. When I try to figure out how to get somewhere, I start at the place I want to be and work my way street by street backward to my current location.

Memory

I have a great memory for places, textures, and objects but I will not remember your face. I am just enough on the autism scale that I hate looking into people’s eyes. At 19 I still find it hard to look in my parent’s eyes. I wouldn’t make full, sustained eye contact with my boyfriend until I had been dating him for upward of three months. So when I meet someone new I am much more likely to remember their shoes that the color of the hair or what they looked like at all.

I can’t make eye contact with myself in the mirror

 When you meet me you will think I look like a train wreck, my hair will be messy, I might have something on my face and my hands will by stained with dirt and paint. The reason for this is I hate mirrors. I can not look myself in he eye. The first time I remember doing so was middle school. So I don’t look in the mirror when I brush my hair, I won’t wash my face unless I’m in the shower. I don’t even like washing my hands because of the mirror.

I hope this look into my life helps you understand how to write dyslexic characters better. As you can see, it’s much more than just the reading, writing and math parts I covered last time. If you have any questions or want me to expand further, feel free to tell me in the comments!

Writing in Character Voice; Tips and Tricks

Maintaining character voice is one of the trickiest things in writing but I feel creating a distinct character voice could be trickier. Overall, character voice is often neglected in the writing community. Lots of people write all their character all in the same voice, that’s what I’m here to remedy today.

Font

Yes, font! You might think this is an odd way to write in different character voices and it is. One of the first things I do when opening a blank document is find a font that matches the was I think the character handwriting would look. This is a visual reminder that I should be writing in their voice. When I switch to a different story I’ll remember my style based on that font.

Length of Sentences

Some people ramble, some people don’t have much to say. I pause a lot to think about what I’m going to say, some of my friends don’t have any kind of filter. Try to picture the wheels turning in that person’s head, are they well greased or slowly falling apart?  How long it takes someone to express and idea is very indicative of character.

Word Choice and Dialect

This is a pretty common one. Some characters grew up educated, others are children, some speak English as a second language. Even just having a character from the south with one from Chicago will show you some very different results. Think through your characters past, where they were raised, who the hung out with, and what they know. Some characters will drop a ‘g’ off of ‘ing’ others won’t. These are the little differences that make characters distinct.

Mixed Speech Styles

Many great books use high class, ten cent words, but the funniest ones mix in character defining words.

“I can’t remember why the gods cast me down to Earth but I have continued to believe that they had a reason despite my recent fuck ups.”

I bet one art of that stands out to you. It really gives a sense of the character despite only hearing one sentence of narration from them.  I believe using mixed dictation makes characters seem more alive.

Now Pay Attention

As you go around day to day, listen to all the different people you meet and how they choose to organize their words. Even very similar people will phrase things differently. Try to learn from real life rather than films as those are often inaccurate. People often forget that a very simple writing tool is to listen.

I hope this helped you in some way. I think these are some of my best tips for making character distinct and interesting! Have a great day.

How to use Character Worksheet to its Full Potential

Last week I uploaded a character sheet but let me show you how I took it one step further. You can find all of the elements in this character background sheet. Writing it up in paragraph form will help you link ideas into a flowing format. Below I have a character bio base off of this post: http://wp.me/p5y43M-dd
I hope you find this helpful.

Milo Maxx never had many friends. In first grade, the kids who she thought were her good friends left her calling her crazy for thinking she could time travel by merely meditating with an orange stone. She never quite recovered from that, feeling outcast her entire life. Her parents were her closest friends being that they were quite young when she was born. Both of her parents were almost like is themselves, with her dad being an archaeologist and her mother a museum curator, every day was a wonderful look at the past. She would run home after school, ignoring the other kids so she could learn new stories from her parents.

Just like them, she wanted to be an anthropologist but there was more to her goal. Though their family lived happily, they were always a little tight on money. This developed a strong work ethic in her at a young age and a creative spirit and knack for entrepreneurial enterprises. Her parents taught her many other things too, like `to take risks, try new things, and most of all, learn from history or you are bound to repeat it. So Milo worked very hard and was able to go to a private school on a full scholarship.

But as with every story when it is going remarkably well, disaster struck. Milo’s mom was killed in a suspicious accident when she was still quite young. To support them, Milo’s father had to take on more jobs and steadily grew distant. As an only child, Milo got used to doing things on her own and took fate into her own hands. She used the stone that took her back in time and killed a dinosaur. Returning to her time, she showed her father exactly where it was so he could excavate it.

This brought in a huge amount of money to the family. She was able to do this over and over again until they moved from there little house at the edge of the city to a huge estate on the hilltops far away. But with each new discovery, her dad had to sacrifice more and more of his time to the dig and spend less of it with Milo. A maid and butler were hired to take care of Milo and the house and things started to settle down again. She had just been accepted to a prestigious school not far from home when her life got turned upside down again.

Now 17 and halfway through her senior year in high school someone in the government got suspicious of her father’s archaeological discoveries and detained him for questioning. Milo was then forced to move in with the only other relatives she had, her aunt, uncle and cousin who currently lived in Japan.

She arrives having never really met these people before and has no idea what is happening to her father.  She moves into the house which is much smaller than the one she had gotten so comfortable in but more than that is upset by the time stone having been taken by the government. Her winter break is a crash course in Japanese so that she can spend the last half of her high school year with her cousin at his school.

As she starts the new school year she feels more excluded than ever and is completely uninterested in her schools. She quickly becomes the ‘quiet kid’ in class and does not have the confidence to speak up and be friendly. Her extended family is a constant reminder of what her family used to be like and suddenly Milo is more lonely than ever.

Cue the start of the story.

Questions to Develop your Characters Background

Here are some questions to think about when creating a new character. This is not an exhaustive list or character sheet, merely something to get you thinking. It’s primarily focused on their past with a little bit of current situation mixed in. I hope you find it helpful!

Name:

Age:

Where they currently live:

What is the greater area around their home: (city, country etc.)

What they do for a living: (year in school also counts)

Previous homes: (or else why have they never moved)

Why did they move: (or where would they like to move)

How are they feeling at this time:

Who is their father: (specify their job)

Who is their mother: (specify their job)

Siblings: (or how being an only child has affected them)

Family relationship:

How was their relationship to their family before:

How old were their parents when they were born:

What was some advice they learned from their parents: (Relationships, work, life etc.)

What was their education:

What kind of college: (or why didn’t they go to one)

What were two defining moments in their life:

When they were little, what did they want to be when they grew up:

Do they have many friends and what is their relationship to them:

 

I hope there was at least one question on here you haven’t thought of before and that it helped you in some way. Good luck!

How I Write Lovable Characters

Here are my experiences and how I write characters I love as well as the mistakes I’ve made. I hope this helps in some way and Happy Valentines Day!

I’ve written many different stories with many different narrators and I know a good narrator will keep me writing. The very first book I tried to write featured a main character who had no faults. I originally thought that this would make the character so much better but as I tried to write it, I started hating the character more and more. It seemed impossible for me to relate to the character and made all the tension dissipate before there was really any action.

        So I abandoned that project and started on another one. This time I was sure to give my character actual human characteristics and flaws. In fact, my main character was enemy number one when it came to the world she lived in but was the hero as far as the book went. This book actually got completed but I kept reworking it. 12 drafts later I was making the character more empathetic and less cold towards everyone. So I learned that even if a character is evil they still have to be likable.

        Not too much later I started writing a character who had lost their memory. This is when I first noticed that half of a character was just what motivated him. It didn’t even need to be on the page as long as I knew what past thing the character had that was affecting the way he reacted now. That is to say, my character was passive and dull because there was nothing motivating his actions. I ended up not writing the most interesting parts of the story because I couldn’t imagine why the character was doing what was supposed to happen.

        Not long after that, I finally started writing characters who the readers enjoyed and who helped push the plot forward. The secret to these characters was giving them emotion and reason. They were no longer a puppet with one general concept making them up but were dynamic and relatable. Sometimes these characters would change to plot just because they started moving on their own.

From then on I started building my characters from the emotion up. I’d begun a book by thinking of a situation that would cause a highly emotional response and then create the two characters who would react in the most interesting way in response to said stimuli. Before even writing the story I’d come up with past events, fears, things they hated. By fleshing them out in every aspect I could, I could understand them better and relate to them more.

Another thing I found key was to make characters have strong beliefs. If a character wasn’t either super outgoing or super shy then they were boring. But if I worked with a shy character and put them in situations where they had to be outgoing, that was interesting. I listened to what others said about why characters were good or bad and I found some interesting distinctions. Characters who were emotionally not ready to take on the climax often came across as overly dramatic and a scaredy cat. Their counterparts who were held back by past memories were perceived as strong and compelling.

The thing that makes a character seem the most alive to me then, is responding to the plot in consistent ways that are unique to the character. If they respond differently every time then I can’t relate to or understand the character. If they respond the same way as everyone else the fall flat and become boring, unoriginal, and paper thin. It is their responses that keep the plot engaging and moving forward.

5 Writer’s Block Busters

I can distinctly remember one time when I desperately wanted to write but I had such bad writer’s block I couldn’t do anything but google how to get rid of it. This is a list for my past self and I hope it helps you too.

Change your place and state of mind

We have to tracts of mind, scientists say, one it the ‘focus’ mind that we engage when we are learning, listening and processing information. The other one is more of a daydreaming state where ideas flow to you. You’re in this state of mind while showering or driving, the thoughts just flow and you don’t try to censor them. So try to get out and doing something boring so your creative mind will kick into gear.

DELETE

The first time I heard this one I cringed and clicked away. This doesn’t mean get rid of forever, just move the past few sentences to another document and try again. Starting a paragraph back or even just a sentence has always worked for me.

Write about pineapples

If you just read that and thought ‘what the heck?’ then you’re like me. This was the thing that cured my writer’s block that fateful day. Now when I got this tip from who knows where, they meant, open a new page and get the juices flowing. At the time I just had my characters talk about pineapples. It got me into voice and away from the situation I was stuck at.

Write a later scene

This one is dangerous but it works. If you can’t write where you are any more then jump ahead to a scene you want to write. Be careful, though, I’ve had entire books finished with one or two spots and when I went to fill them in, accidentally changed the ending.

Get Busy.

Truth be told, I hate this one but I know it works. I’ve been told that inspiration never finds those who wait. If you do something else like read or draw or play music, anything to get creative, it should get you up and motivated to write!

 

I hope something here caused sparks that got you ready to write. Oh and if you’re here procrastinating on actually working… Get To Work!

Have a nice day!

Acting Tips that May Help Your Writing!

I recently picked up a book on acting and directing actors and found some tips you may find useful for developing characters. One of the main ideas is to try to think of yourself and how you are similar to the character. With that in mind as you fill out a character sheet, answer the questions in regard to yourself first. This may help you think of the character in a deeper way. Then ask the tough questions.

What unpleasant truths is the character forced to deal with?

What is the character most knowledgeable about?

How does he/she use their intelligence?

Is the character protecting himself from past pains or avoiding situations because of his past?

What makes him/her laugh?

What makes him/her loose their sense of humor?

What is their blind spot?

What are they doing in this scene that they have never done before?

In what way is this character an artist?

These are the questions I found were most often left out of character sheets that really help me understand the character more. By answering the questions of myself I am more able to relate to my characters and write them more honestly. They seem more human to me when I put little pieces of myself in there with them.

The Authors Reference Sheet to Fast Draft a Novel

This is how I have outlined and organized the content for my most recent novel, Own Most. It is making the process of writing go much faster and easier than it ever has before. By this I mean 20,000 words in 8 days of work, which is much faster than I ever have before. I hope this helps you too.

1 General Plot

This is where I outline the overarching ideas of the book such as plot twists, high action points, and other need to know information

2 Useful Links

This is where I paste the websites that I used for research as well as location inspiration. In general, things I want to get back to later.

3 Character Inspiration

These are pictures that I have pasted right into the document. They show the some of the way I want the character to come across on the page as well as their physicality so I won’t have to hunt through the entire book to find someone’s eye color.

4 Original Draft

This is any scene I had written out ahead of time no matter where it fell in the book. I might have transcribed it from the written word or I might have twenty pages I typed out when I first got really excited about my idea. This is a good way for me to grab text I might be able to reuse without me having to stop and dig through documents to find it.

5 Big Ideas

I’ll have a short list of things I want to convey over the course of the book written out so that I never lose sight of what is important.

6 Plot Points

And here we have the dreaded plot points. I will set out each huge turning point first. I’ll usually have 10- 12 because that’s the number of chapters I usually have. Each of these high points represents the chapter break where I’ll leave the reader wanting more. Then I fill in bullet points of what needs to come between them to create a cohesive story. The key with this is detail. The more individual points I have, the faster I’ll be able to write.

7 Dull Moment Fixers

These are some ideas that I know I want in the book but don’t know where to put them. If I have any symbolism, themes, or foreshadowing I need to reiterate, I’ll put them here. The idea is, if I don’t know what to put on the page next, I can turn to one of these things and keep my momentum up.

This is just what I have been using. I hope you found something here that will help you write your first draft faster!

Other Art and Writing

One of the reasons why I stop writing is because I don’t feel connected to my characters. This makes it hard for me to see where the plot is going and thus why I’m writing. So today I thought I would tell you what I do to understand my characters more while still encouraging the creative process.

Stick figures

One of my favorite things to do is sketch how the character looks. Now don’t click away. You don’t need to be an artist at all. Try just drawing a couple stick figures whose body language represents your character. If you want something a little more challenging, draw the characters wardrobe, you’ll be surprised how much clothing can tell you about a person.

Music

I’ve mentioned how much music influences my work before but this is a different take. Try coming up with a ‘theme song’ for each character. This doesn’t have to be an album, just a few notes you can hum or some finger drumming. Should it be fast paced or slow? Are the notes all over the scale? Feel free to steal from other songs too, just as long as it fits the person you are creating.

Sculpt

My last suggestion of the day is to make some part of your character 3D. This can be a clay sculpture of the character to paper folded into their house. It doesn’t need to be good as long as you know what you’re going for.

If you are still stumped or think your art is too bad, I do have one last thing I try. I pretend I am the character and make whatever they would. Sometimes it’s a paper airplane, sometimes it’s a little sketch of a snail, sometimes I even get out legos. The most important thing it to have fun!

(I’m pretending I didn’t disappear for such a long time).

Day 43s simple task: Day 30 of a book a month

What’s this all about simple tasks? http://wp.me/p5y43M-3z

You are done! Well, almost. If you are here congratulations, today’s writing should be a breeze. Your probably sick and tired of your work, but who cares, you’re almost done! All you need to do is wrap everything up. Have them go back to their friends. Arrest the criminal. This is what is call “falling action” and it is the only time in your book to have it. Today you will end your book, so put in every little happy moment you can. Good job. YOU MADE IT!

You wrote 50000 words!  You wrote a book!