Getting Into Character

Facebook – General

I’ve been catching up with some concerts recorded a while back and I finished watching the John Williams Prom today.

Fab music and what is so telling is that in everything he has ever composed, it is clear he has entered the head of the character he has chosen to focus on and come up with the music that would suit them. This is especially true for Indiana Jones and Jaws!

Much as I adore the music, story wise, I’m very fond of only one of those… I leave it to you to guess which one!

But there is an object lesson here: know your characters, REALLY know your characters, if you want to write “for” them well.

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Many thanks, once again, to all the fab writers who shared their thoughts on my recent Why I Blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today. I find blogging, including on posts like this, wonderful for getting me “into” my writing sessions.

I love the freedom blogging gives but have found it helps to have one major topic. In my case that’s writing of course, but all sorts of things can come off that – such as the importance of reading, editing tips and so on.

The rules I generally follow for blogging include:-

1. Keep it simple. Not in terms of content but in terms of expression. Bullet points for headlines, expand later in the text.

2. Stick to a word count. For CFT I stick to 1500 words absolute max (and it’s usually nearer 1200). More than that, such as the Why I Blog pieces, I split into two or more parts. For the monthly ACW blog, it’s up to 500 words. (I love the discipline of writing to different word counts like this. It makes me “up my game”. It is far easier to write “long” than short).

3. Think of who you are writing for and go for topics which people will find useful, interesting, or would be happy to comment on. The best topics of course combine all of those!

And now on to my other blogs before I turn to fiction for this evening…

The start of another sweltering week in deepest, darkest Hampshire sees me cracking on with more flash fiction for my current WIP. Am happy with how that is going but would like to submit more work as well, so that’s my next mini target.

I’m a little ahead of the game when it comes to my CFT posts (and would like that happy state of affairs to continue). My next post will be a review of the recent Hursley Park Book Fair. More details later in the week.

I’m also drafting some non-time dependent blog posts that I can slot into different places as and when I need them. I must do this more often as it’s useful having material to hand for those on holiday times, down with the dreaded lurgy times, having too good a time at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School time etc etc. I love being able to schedule!

Somewhat cooler today, much pleasanter… Lady appreciated it too.

What is your chief reason for writing? For me, it is a mixture of wanting to share my stories and non-fiction AND wanting to do something positive with that wonderful treasure called literacy, which is so easy to take for granted.

I think most people have some sort of artistic “bent”. It is a question of whether they recognise it or not, and whether they try to develop it or not. Rejections are a pain, especially when there seems to be no “real” reason for them, but you are at least getting work out there. You are being creative.

And every time you try to develop your skills further, you (a) learn and (b) that in turn will help improve your chances of success. The great irony is that success can come after learning to deal with rejections.

The rejections do make you look at your work again and, especially after a gap between sending it out and getting the bad news, it is easier to take a fresher look at your story. Where you see room for improvement, do the necessary work and resubmit elsewhere. Where you really can’t see what you could do better, see if there are other markets which may be interested and submit there, following their guidelines.

Above all, keep writing. Be open to different forms of writing and enjoy what you do!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to give my characters a “matter of fact” tone to them. I think it makes their portrayal more realistic and, as a reader, I love to find out what characters like these end up doing.

Why? Because characters who are “matter of fact” can end up clashing with those who do not appreciate their honest approach to life. That is where the conflict is, and therefore where the story is too.

I also need to convince readers to stay with my characters so giving them a tone many will identify with is another way of encouraging people to read on.

I like to get into my stories “hitting the ground running” so to speak. One of the best ways I find of doing this is by getting into the lead character’s head quickly and showing their thoughts and attitudes.

The great thing with this is that it doesn’t necessarily mean the character has to be likeable and generate the readers’ sympathy. All any potential reader has to be able to do is see where the character is coming from. It doesn’t mean you have to like the journey this character is on!

Having said that, the truly great characters will spark a reaction in readers, whether it is a good reaction or not. Sometimes a character’s attitude will encourage the reader to keep reading to see if they can get away with said attitude or will the character be brought to earth crashing. I love reading stories like that.

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As well as writing flash fiction, I’m thoroughly enjoying reading it. It is a very simple way of ensuring I get to read contemporary fiction (and in my genre) and it is lovely to have my reader’s hat on and just enjoy the stories. It reminds me of why I wanted to write flash in the first place and you kind of end up falling in love with the genre all over again.

I think the biggest thing for me has to be the fact flash has to be character led but you can set that character in any time, place, or world you choose. There is so much freedom there despite the demands of the tight word count.

Sometimes I will start a flash fiction piece but realise, usually fairly quickly, that this character is going to “run” and the story will end up be standard competition length (1500 to 2000 words generally). That’s fine and it is a joy to write to that length of story too.

However, the reverse is true sometimes too. What I think would make a good competition entry story really is best written as a flash story. There is one pivotal moment, which is entertaining enough, but if you were to add more, it would (a) spoil it and (b) be obvious padding.

So when writing I’ve found it to keep an open mine and judge what the story needs (which is not always what I think it will be!).

The ever useful post it note - image via Pixabay

The ever useful post-it note. Image via Pixabay.

Part 5 - Keeping the language simple and above all clear

No room for gobbledygook here. Image via Pixabay.

The fantastic world of books must include non-fiction too - image via Pixabay

The wonderful world of writing should include non-fiction, which benefits from creative techniques too. Image via Pixabay.

Time to find a new place to call home perhaps - what stories could that lead to - image via Pixabay

Time to have another home perhaps? Good stories to be had here! Image via Pixabay

Feature Image - Facts and Fiction - image via Pixabay

What writing triggers will help you create your new worlds? Image via Pixabay

A familiar desk scene for writers - image via Pixabay

The familiar sight of the writing desk, regardless of genre! Image via Pixabay.

Good historical fiction will make it seem as if you had stepped back in time - image via Pixabay

Could this picture inspire stories? Good fiction will take you out of the world for a while. Image via Pixabay.

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A great selection of books. Image by Allison Symes

My book stand at the Discovery Centre

Enjoy what you write and read! Image by Allison Symes

Laptops - all have a global reach - image via Pixabay

Reviews can have global reach. Most impact I think can often be local to the writer.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – What Makes a Character Work for You?

In all of the best stories I’ve read, certain things have to be true about the characters.

1. They’ve got to be interesting in some way, whether it is by being so different to these around them it is bound to grab your attention, or they do something which goes against what is expected of them. You immediately want to know why and what the consequences are. Result! You read on…

2. They have to have flaws and virtues and, above all, understandable reasons for acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean you have to agree or like them.

3. Personal one here – I’m particularly fond of the underdog. I like to see if they can “win out”. Fairytales of course feature a lot of these (and they do win!) so that fuels my love of this one.

4. They have to overcome adversity in some way, whether that is a major one (or is only major to them).

5. They have to develop in some way over the course of the story or novel and by the end, even if not successful in their aim which is driving the story, have come to a better understanding of themselves and the world they live in. The reader can see they’ve changed for the better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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