Archive for the ‘#characters’ Tag

First Among Favorites   8 comments

From all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite and why?

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Wow, this could be a hard one simply because I’ve been writing since I was 12 and a lot of characters have been my “favorite” at one time or another. How to choose a favorite among favorites? That’s like asking the parent of a large brood of children to choose their favorite. You love them all and a good parent would love them equally. But some of them, you might like a little bit more than everyone else. You might want to spend time with them slightly more than you want to spend time with others. Or, if you’re like me, and you have had different best friends over the course of a lifetime, it’s a similar situation. I had a best friend when I was a child and we still know one another, though we aren’t really close friends now. I had a best friend in high school and into college and we are still Facebook friends and I will go out of my way to see her if we’re in the same geographic area, but we don’t talk every day. I had a best friend when I was in my 20s (she’s was the matron of honor at my wedding), but she moved away just prior to the Internet getting underway and I haven’t been able to track her down, so that friendship has withered. I have a best friend now and I’m married to him. I like spending time with him, but if I were to be honest I can think of some other people I’d rather spend more time with. His “best friend” status has to do with how long and how well we’ve known each other, not necessarily about shared interests. We share some, but not all. Trust me – when I start talking quilting or writing, his eye lids droop and I only pretend to want here about his technical endeavors.

So, clearly this “favorite” thing is complicated.

Who is my favorite character among the hundreds that have traipsed through my mind in my writing career and why?

It’s a tossup between Shane Delaney of Transformation Project and Peter of (the yet-unpublished) What If Wasn’t? Since readers can’t go out and get to know Peter (yet), I’m going to focus on Shane Delaney. These are two very different characters and I like them for different reasons. Shane gets the “favorite” label because he’s published, but it was a hard decision to make.

Why do I like Shane? He’s someone I could sit down with over coffee and interview and enjoy spending an evening getting to know. Not that he would talk to me or tell me his secrets, because Shane doesn’t do that. He’s dark and complex, which is also sometimes why I don’t want to write him. He’s a mercenary who was forced to work for the government, which in turn forced him to work as a mercenary, and he doesn’t like either of his two masters. He’s loyal, but he’ll cut his losses in a heartbeat if he needs to — and mourn later, if he has time. He’s got PTSD from the things he’s had to do that haunt him. He’s the ultimate realist who will make the pragmatic decisions no one around him wants to make. He’s the non-believer in a devout family, but he’s not angry at his family. He still loves them and (mostly) respects their beliefs, even though he has rejected them. He’s the serial monogamous in a family of faithful men. He’s totally male and yet he enjoys the female mind (and body, but this is largely a PG series). He’s 26 going on 96, but he wasn’t born mature. He is still a work in progress. He’s stubborn, but he can learn from his mistakes and the mistakes of others. He is tough and can take physical and emotional pain, but he has a breaking point and he came home to avoid shattering, only to have circumstances force him to keep going and resist shattering. Shane is brutally honest about his failings and does not indulge often in denial, though he does often tell those who want to help him that his inner life is none of their business.

A third factor in why I like Shane so much is that I don’t absolutely know where he is headed. I do know he’s coming to a crisis and that several of the big questions of his life will need to be answered … if he survives. I can’t see beyond that crisis, so I don’t know his outcome. The character has surprised me a few times, so I’m not at all certain what choices he’ll make.

As a discovery writer, I love when my character’s hijack their plot and take it in an interesting direction. Not all characters will do that and that’s okay, but when I have a character like Shane who is very much his own man — that’s golden, and that’s what makes him my favorite — for now.

Posted May 20, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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A Study in Grays   8 comments

Who is your favorite antagonist/bad guy/villain in your books and why? What makes him/her tick?

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This is actually a hard post to write, as evidenced by the fact that this is the third draft. I don’t really like to write villains. I prefer pitting my characters against difficult situations. In Transformation Project, it’s a world that is falling apart after an apocalyptic event. In Daermad Cycle, it’s a vengeful Celtic goddess and the characters who serve her. For the most part, I don’t write negative characters as villains, though I suppose they serve as antagonists at times. They are people challenged by their times, doing what they deem best in the situation, but they aren’t necessarily evil. They’ve just chosen a negative path in a dark situation. I like giving “villains” a reason for their villainy and things that they love. I want you to almost like them and to believe that if things were different, they could be your neighbor and you might not utterly hate them. And I believe in the ability of redemption to change people, so it’s hard for me to write true villains.

TP Cover Montage

In Transformation Project, Paul serves as the primary antagonist against Shane who, while the “hero”, is hardly a night in shining armor. Paul is just one of those small-town guys who likes to push people around and Shane has hated him since the 9th grade. But Paul used to be in love with Jazz, who is Shane’s at-arms-length love interest, and the two have a complicated history that is going to eventually cause a clash. But Paul isn’t written as totally evil. He likes small children and dogs. He’s a thief, but there are lines he won’t cross. And ultimately, he just wants Jazz to love him and he even wishes Shane didn’t hate him. There may be a little bit of a theme here because Gilyn in Daermad Cycle has the same basic motivation … trying to find love when you’re the villain just never seems to work out.

Daermad 2 Book Compilation

The only true villain in Daermad Cycle is Talidd, but he is far from my favorite villain because he’s too evil to redeem. I don’t enjoy writing him. You can assume he’s going to do evil things because that’s how he is written and that really limits what range I can use with him. And I so hated having written him that way that he now plays a substantial role in the historical sequences because it shows how he got to be the Black Master. This gives me an opportunity to show how any of my characters with similar gifts might be tempted to use them for what they suppose are beneficient reasons, but are ultimately for an evil result.

I suppose Gilyn, also an antagonist in Daermad Cycle, is my favorite “villain” because he is redeemable. Or at least I’ve left him with hope of redemption. He’s done some awful things because he’s being driven mad by a Celtic goddess. Currently, he is building a coalition of antagonistic races against the Celdryans (humans) and the  Kindred (elves). His mother was Celt, his father Kin. Why would he choose to do such horrible things to the people who gave him life? He once loved a half-elven lass (Ryanna, who is one of the heroes of the tale), but he did horrible things to her too. He knows the rules of society, but he doesn’t really care about them and never did. When he breaks them, he cares more that it might ruin his scam than that someone might get hurt. And, yet, he does want to be accepted and loved. That’s what makes him tick. He just wants to be loved and feels that he isn’t. To earn the “love” of the Celtic goddess, he’ll do anything … even make war on his own peoples.

I suppose that’s what makes him my favorite. He is complicated which makes for complex writing. And he could go either way … become the true villain he seems destined to be or finally find redemption and surprise everyone, including himself … and me. I love it when my characters surprise me, which might explain why I don’t really write villains … because what is the fun of writing a character that you know is going to act a certain way?

Posted August 6, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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#Apocalyptic #Free   Leave a comment

lifeasweknewitToday only. Character-focused apocalyptic fiction.

Character Viewpoint   Leave a comment

Confession … that probably regular readers of this blog don’t need … I’m a realist. I like to be aware of the sharp edges of the world. I also point out the major disasters I see looming on our societal horizon. Some people could view me as a pessimist, but I actually have a lot of hope for the future — if you read the post on Monday about liberty renewal, you saw me being optimistic.

I’ve often said my characters just sort of talk to me and I write down their stories. I don’t try to force them to be someone they’re not, because when I’ve tried that in the past, they’ve stopped talking to me and what is a writer without characters to write about?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to figure out what makes my characters tick and try to exploit those traits. Do my characters view the world through rose-tinted glasses or polarized lenses?

Don’t think that is an insignificant question. Yes, it might be less immediate than whether Shane blows the back of his head out with his own gun in Life As We Knew It, but life outlook is a fundamental part of any character. Shane is depressed because life circumstances made him that way. Right now, he can’t see a future, but what would he do if he saw a glimmer of light in the darkness? Would his glass be half-full or half-empty?

Optimists and pessimists see the same glass, but their interpretation of it differs. That raises an important point for writers. Our characters’ narratives are not objective. They’re subjective, tinted by their individual worldviews, colored by their personalities and thought patterns, and experiences.

No two people (or characters) see the world in the same way, and something as simple as an optimistic or pessimistic streak can have a significant impact on that. If you think about it that way, how a character interprets the glass half empty or half full question can be quite the game-changer.

So what makes someone more optimistic or pessimistic and where do your characters fall on the continuum?

In my years working for a social service agency, I learned a few things about depressed folks, delusional folks and personality disorders. (Those are, by the way, three distinct categories of people who require mental health services.) The way you choose to explain what happens to you can control your view of the world. How you explain your problems and choose a solution for them can be positive or negative, and it’s this habit of thinking that makes you more optimistic or pessimistic. Most people fall somewhere between the two extremes, with varying degrees of optimism and pessimism, and so should your characters. I also add a third viewpoint that is likely a mixture of optimism and pessimism mixed together – the realist. I’ll get to that later in the article.Psychologically, optimism and pessimism aren’t considered something you’re born with that you will be saddled with for the rest of your lives. You may have a tendency to be one or the other, but both can be learned—and that itself comes with positive and negative consequences.

It’s actually easy to fall into the trap of pessimism. When faced with the feeling that life is uncontrollable, giving up and surrendering to negative thoughts can be an irresistible temptation. You stop trying to change what seems unchangeable. You learn to be helpless.

Put someone in unpleasant situations that seem unavoidable or inescapable, and many people simply give up and learn to be helpless. Explanatory style can have a significant effect on learning to be helpless. If you view negative situations as personal (it’s all my fault), permanent (nothing’s going to change) and pervasive (it affects your whole life), you’re much more likely to become pessimistic, believing that these bad things will have a longer and greater impact on your life than those who view these situations differently.

Optimism can be learned. Not everyone learns to be helpless. Some people refuse to give up and accept their fate. They remain resistant to the lure of pessimism and instead look for ways to escape. They learn to be optimistic. They view negative situations as circumstantial (it’s just an unfortunate event that can happen to anyone), temporary (this too shall pass), and specific (only this situation is negative, the rest of life is salvageable). If you explain what happens to you in this way, you’ll be far more active in changing situations for the better. The risk with optimism is that when negative circumstances keep being negative going forward, optimism alone tends to run out of steam or begin to look suspiciously like denial.

There’s a third type of view point that I alluded to in the beginning of the article. The realist can often sum up their viewpoint with the quip “There’s a glass?” The realist may look at all the negativity around them and accept that things look dire, but he or she isn’t going to give up because they accept the world as it is and mean to conquer it, as it is. If the glass is half-empty, they will concentrate on what is outside of the glass. Often realists are recovering pessimists or reformed optimists who have finally taken off the rose-colored glasses. They will take whatever comes their way and deal with it. They’ll be happy when the circumstances warrant it and they’ll roll up their sleeves when the sewer backs up.

I avoid labeling my characters as optimists or pessimists because there is a continuum of this worldview. Some characters are more optimistic or pessimistic than others, some only slightly so, with a minimal effect on their lives, and some will have a streak of optimism or pessimism that pervades everything they do. Some of my characters, like Peter in What If Wasn’t (a WIP), are in recovery and so can talk themselves around to a healthier mindset.

Still, as a writer, you must consider the far reaching effects viewpoint will have on your characters thoughts and behavior. This is especially necessary with point-of-view characters, as the reader will see their thoughts for themselves, but also applies to non-POV characters, as their mindsets can be inferred from the way they act.

When writing from a character’s perspective, keep their natural tendency to be more optimistic or pessimistic in the back of your mind. Their explanatory style—how they explain their problems and pick a solution—will be shown through their thoughts and the way they interpret events. If they’re more pessimistic, they’ll have a tendency to attribute their problems to themselves (personal), see them as unchangeable situations (permanent), and think that their whole lives will be affected by the problem (pervasive). Because of this, they tend to become more passive and helpless.

In Life As We Knew It and Objects in View, Shane tends to see things as his fault and he’s pretty sure things are going to get worse. Nuclear terrorism is going to affect many parts of his life, so his pessimism is understandable. But … he hasn’t given up or become passive. Does this mean he’s an optimist who is simply depressed?

You’ll have to read the books to find out. On the other hand, Shane’s brother Cai is definitely an optimist. Optimistic characters’ explanatory style means that they interpret negative events as circumstantial and therefore not their fault, with situations being temporary, changeable and specific to this one event, not their entire lives. If I were a simplistic writer, I’d might show him as being more active in his response to the situation than Shane, but I avoid cardboard cut-out characters.

When narrating from a character’s perspective, allow the influence of their explanatory style to show through. How they interpret an event is very telling of how optimistic or pessimistic they are. Be careful when writing pessimistic POV characters. I couldn’t stick with Shane’s POV. I had to add other characters because living in the head of a depressed mercenary with PTSD was depressing for me and I knew it would be for readers.

By the way — conflict is key in fiction and worldview can be a great source for showing conflict. Learning optimism or pessimism can feature as a central part of a story’s plot. Put your characters in a situation that highlights and reinforces their natural tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic and have them learn to be helpless or active. This could be part of the main story line or have happened during their lives before the story begins—either way, it will have a substantial impact on their outlook on life if it was a well-taught lesson.

Pitting your characters against external events that force them to learn optimism or helplessness creates conflict, but it doesn’t have to end there. The characters’ internal journeys can be founts of conflict too. If your protagonist begins the story feeling helpless and ineffective, part of her journey may be to become active in solving her problems and less pessimistic in outlook. For this to happen, her very beliefs about negative events must change and this isn’t an easy thing to do, not least because she’s probably unaware of her natural tendency to be pessimistic.

A character can take a conscious route to learning optimism or pessimism or an unconscious one. In the case of the former, something might happen to give him a moment of clarity, in which he realizes that his pessimistic beliefs are not shared by others and that they may be doing him harm. Conversely, a very optimistic character may come to a rude awakening that they are not dealing with reality in the way that they need to..


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