Quick Character Creation Methods

Character creation can be tricky sometimes.  Maybe not so much for your main characters but I definitely find it hard sometimes to create multi-dimensional side characters.  You know, the characters like your protagonist’s best friend or your big villain’s head lackey.  I usually find it very easy to flesh out the big players in my novels but come up short when it comes to those who might get a couple of pages “screen time” throughout the entire story.  Fleshing out your characters will make them unique and easily recognizable to readers.

*Disclaimer*

One small side note before I continue!  A lot of writers say that you should know each and every character intimately regardless of how prolific they are.  Now, personally, I say this is a matter of choice over how much detail you want to go into.  I don’t usually know the Tragic Backstory(tm) of Walk-on Mary who tells Tadashi and Hiro that Professor Callaghan is still inside the burning building when I write.  Nor do I care to as it creates more work in the long run that readers will never see.  If you are one of those writer’s then more power to you.  However, that’s a topic for a completely separate blog post!

What’s this woman’s backstory? We may never know…

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post!

I’ve rounded up four different methods that make the character creation process a bit quicker.  Whether it’s a main character you’re struggling with or if you need a bit of assistance with building some interesting side characters to populate your novel, archetypes, MBTI, Astrology, and Tarot cards all offer unique and different ways to help you build characters utilizing preexisting traits, quirks, and characteristics.  None of these options force you to start from absolute scratch.  Though if you felt the need to mix and match different characteristics to build a unique character to fit into your story.

character creation

Archetypes

Out of all four of these tools, archetypes are probably the most well known.  We see them all the time in movies, television, books, and other media.  Archetypes are stock characters that most people are familiar with.  I’ll name a few:

  • The Alpha Girl (or Guy)/Cheerleader: Heather Chandler (Heathers), Cordelia (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter)
  • The Wise Mentor: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Doc Hudson (Disney Pixar’s Cars)
  • The Smart Guy (or Girl): Sailor Mercury (Sailor Moon), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Simon (Firefly)

 

Look! It’s the wicked witch archetype in disguise with her mortal enemy the innocent maiden archetype!

Archetypes tend to be the go to resource for writers who need a quick, simple character.  There are literally hundreds of them because they’ve been around since Plato.  Each archetype comes with it’s own defined characteristics that can be found among other characters across various stories.  They have also been expanded upon by author after author.  Carl Jung, a psychologist from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s, helped to further define what each archetype entailed.  This blog post from NowNovel.com discusses some of these archetypes more in depth.  It also includes some helpful hints on goals and fears for character motivation.  You can also mix and match certain traits and characteristics of these archetypes to create new ones.  The evil mad scientist archetype is simply a remix of the genius smart guy and the dark lord archetypes.

For some ideas on how to remix archetypes for your own character creation process, check out this chart!

MBTI

MBTI, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator if you like long words, is one of the most comprehensive personality tests out in the wide world of the internet today.  You’ve probably seen MBTI charts on pinterest or tumblr categorizing your favorite book/movie/television characters into one of these personality types.  It’s the hot thing to do at the moment right up there with sorting your favorite characters into Hogwart’s houses.

In total, there are sixteen different personality types that measure a person’s dominate character traits.  Each one is a combination of four different dichotomies, or splits, in an individual’s personality.  Kind of like facets.  They are marked with a corresponding letter that creates an unique personality type.  Well-Storied has a pretty in depth article about MBTI and how to use it with regards to your characters.  If you just need something quick and easy though take a look at this chart.  It’s more in depth than I could ever be.  All of the sixteen of the personality types are described and detailed in it.

Image from Wikipedia courtesy of Jake Beech.  Turned into a link because I got eyestrain just thinking about trying to read it here.

I’m not sure how well mixing and matching personality types would work with MBTI.  I think it would simply end up changing the entire personality type but you could always try it and see what happens.  However, you’re more than welcome to try it out.  Tomi Adeyemi suggests taking the characters that you already have and then applying MBTI personalities to them for more inspiration.  This works really well if you just need to further flesh out your characters.  If you’re starting from scratch though, consider just picking a personality type that fits your needs best based on the given descriptions for your character creation.

Astrology and Zodiac

Astrology and the zodiac is another good place to look for inspiration when it comes to character creation.  In fact, it happens to be my most favorite.  These have been around for a very long time.  At it’s simplest form it’s the study of how celestial bodies move through the sky and effect events on Earth.  It’s all very subjective and I’ve never been one to believe in the tell of horoscopes to predict my future.  However, I find something incredibly interesting behind the wide variety of signs and symbols.

 

Sun sign zodiac, used in those cheesy horoscopes that tell you Mr./Mrs. Right will walk into you at the coffee shop.  Probably going to spill hot coffee on you.

Sun sign astrology is the zodiac that most Westerner recognize.  Aries, Capricorn, Virgo, and the rest of the twelve signs are usually what we focus on since they are the most familiar.  Bryn Donovan has written a series of posts that focuses on writing each of the twelve zodiac signs.  She covers both the good and the negative traits that are associated with each sign.  Useful when you need to come up with a handful of flaws for your characters to make them more well rounded.  Because astrology and the zodiac has been around so long, it’s super easy to find other inspirations.  Like with archetypes, traits from each sign can be mixed and  matched so that no two characters are exactly alike.

If the sun sign astrology doesn’t feel right for you or your looking for something different, try one of the many other zodiacs or astrology systems.  Just about every culture has one.  While many of them are similar, there are enough differences to separate them.  Try the Chinese zodiac or Celtic astrology for something a little off the beaten path.

Tarot

My last tool for quick character creation is a bit off the beaten path.  Tarot uses cards to usually predict the future or to gain insight on events that are happening.  Each card carries a specific set of meanings and is usually up to the person reading the cards to interpret.  It’s very subjective and because of this some people are skeptical on whether or not a set of cards can tell you what the future holds.  Regardless of whether or not you believe in telling the future with a few cards, tarot still lends itself to be an unique approach to character creation.

One of the really cool things is that though there are specific meanings for the cards, there are still several ways of interpreting those meanings.  It might make it super confusing for predicting the future but it makes it interesting for writing.  I love how open ended it is and the creativity it allows.  Several spreads exist for using tarot as a writing aide but it can be as simple as choosing three cards from the deck at random for a character’s positive traits, negative traits, and motivation or really any aspect you’re looking for.

Maybe not the easiest first spread to use but it’s definitely thorough.

Writing After Dark has a specific, more in depth, spread of cards specifically for creating characters.  There’s also some directions and an example on how to interpret your cards.  She uses a spread that I’ve seen floating around on pinterest.  I’ve got it on my list of spreads to try when I need some inspiration for some characters of my own.  There’s also another example spread at Writing One Word At a Time.  She also has some resources if you aren’t familiar with tarot cards and their meaning.

 

There you have it!  Four tools for quick character creation.  The next time you need some inspiration try one of these out and let me know what you think.  Which one do you think will fit your needs best?  Let me know in the comments below.  Or better yet, send me a link to your characters’ profile so I can check out your handy work!

Want more?
  • Looking for your next story starter or perhaps something to bust up writer’s block?  Dig through my writing prompts!
  • Looking for something interesting and free to read?  Check out Enchantress on either Tapas or Wattpad!

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Boring (Adventures in Writing…)

This scene is boring.  How can I spice it up?  Add small children that will be caught up in a monster fight to come.

Yep… that will work…

I think I have a problem.

To clarify: no children will be killed, maimed, or harmed in the making of this scene.

Continue reading “Boring (Adventures in Writing…)”

Book Review: The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet

A few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of stumbling across a webseries called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I’m a huge sucker for retellings and I love how well written this one is.  Our heroine, Lizzie Bennet, becomes a communications grad student who starts a vlog as a project for school which then balloons into a year long affair.  Through it she chronicles her older sister’s love life, her struggles in school, and her exasperation (and eventual romance) with the standoffish Darcy.  Armed with a closet full of pilfered clothing for “costume theater” and her best friend Charlotte Lu’s editing skills, Lizzie tells the story of her life in an engaging and funny way.  

With the five year anniversary relaunch of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries coming up on June 5th, now feels like a very good time to review the media tie in book.  Written by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, it’s oh so cleverly titled The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.  Don’t let that prejudice steer you away though.  Yes, I made a joke.  Hush.  Now before anyone points out the normally unbearable nature of media tie in books, let me say something first.  This book rocks.  There’s no two ways about it.

secret diary of lizzie bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
By Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Continue reading “Book Review: The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet”

Inspired or why it sucks to be a fanfiction writer sometimes…

So, you start a new show.  It’s amazing.  You love it.  The characters are cool and the story line is fun.  You grab your computer.  You look at fan art and check out the coolest fan theories.  Then, because you’re a writer, you get inspired.  So you open up your preferred writing program and spit out approximately 3000 words worth of fanfiction for one particular theory/headcanon that you love.  It’s fantastic.  You love it.  It’s not perfect but you adore the story that you’ve created.  You start to dream big about how it could be your next multi-chaptered fic if people seem interested enough.

Then, the worst hits…

The new episodes/season/reveals come out.  That fantastic story line you came up with… is so horrifically off canon that it isn’t even on the freaking boat anymore.  Which is depressing because you lovingly crafted it from your head canons/theories and the preexisting knowledge of characters and story arc.  Now, you’re left with one of two options.

Number 1

Take and submit this beautiful but horribly off canon piece as a one shot and let it exist as a phantom of what could’ve been.

Number 2

Scrap it all.  Take it and pour gasoline upon it’s pages and light the match.  Watch it go up in flames like all the rest of your dreams.

You carefully debate on which to do.  You agonize.  And as you agonize… you fall even more in love with the story plot.  It’s got huge potential for action, adventure, and heart.  You imagine what could’ve been.  How you could’ve turned some wild plot bunny into a majestic steed.  Yes you’re in love with this story.  Maybe, you think… it could be possible to wait and adapt it so that it isn’t so off canon.  Yes, that’s possible.

However, you’re inspired now!  Your fingers itch to be on the keyboard.  Prose is tumbling around your brain like a waterfall.  Witty dialogue is on the tip of your brain, making you snort in public much to your own embarrassment.  Then the whisper comes…

Why does it have to be fanfiction…

Your story can easily become original fiction.  Your hands shake.  In your brain you’ve already contemplated original characters.  Ones that would fit the story.  Characters that could lead the story.  Ones that you know will create a different feel than the source material.

You think, “YES!” This is what I will do.  I will write this fanfiction as an original story.

You put your fingers to your keyboard to write, to dive in.  Then you hear it coming from your WIP folder.  It starts off as a murmuring that grows into a whisper.  It swells so that the voices become nondescript.  Except for one that rises above the chaos…

“Um… EXCUSE YOU!!!”

What do you guys say?

Would you turn a fanfiction idea into an original story or would you let it rest in the realm of Alternate Universe?  There is an audience for both.  Let me know in the comments below or by answering this cool poll!

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Book Review: Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle

Well!  I said that I wanted to do some book reviews so I decided to kick it off with a book called, Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle.  Stop!  Don’t click away just yet.  It sounds a bit juvenile but I thought it was a fairly cute story.  It wasn’t without it’s flaws for sure but let me give you my run down.

crystal castle

The Story

Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle by Pepper Thorn
Published by Typing Cat Press, 2011

This fairy tale centers on a young princess named Rose who has been cursed.  Everyone who meets her instantly falls in love with her.  There is not a soul in the world who is immune.  Though her curse bothers Rose, it’s effects don’t really start to weigh on her until her sixteenth birthday.  The minutes she is old enough Princes literally trip over themselves asking for her hand in marriage.  

However, because she can never really be sure if their love is true and not curse invoked, Rose rejects all her suitors.  One by one all her princes leave heartbroken.  Except for one.  The handsome and mysterious Prince Raven whisks her away in the night through a magic mirror to his icy kingdom.  From there Rose learns that his people and kingdom are cursed too and he needs marriage to a princess in order to lift it.  Not everything is as it seems though and it becomes abundantly clear that Raven isn’t telling her everything.  With her only ally being a mute pageboy named Mouse, she must find a way to escape Raven’s beautiful but dangerous kingdom.

The Good

I enjoyed several things about Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle.  The first being the world it’s set in.  Author Pepper Thorn has done a magnificent job in creating several different kingdoms and cultures.  During the princes’ entrance you get a fun sense of the places they come from.  One comes in a la Howl’s Moving Castle complete with a house on chicken legs.  I found the plot itself intriguing. It includes a mad king, missing mothers, tragic deaths, and an overabundance of magic mirrors.  It had a vibe that reminded me very much of the Hades and Persephone myth.

Surprisingly, breaking Rose’s curse is never the focus of the story though it does directly cause many of her problems.  Though in a pivotal moment, her curse ends up helping her instead.  Nice little twist if you ask me.  There’s an underlying foreboding feeling that permeates the book as it becomes more and more clear that Raven isn’t being entirely truthful.  It builds and builds until you know that something is definitely dangerously wrong.

The Not-so Good

Unfortunately, with the good there comes the bad.  The plot and set up is standard fare when it comes to fairy tales for sure and, admittedly, a bit cliched.  However, it wouldn’t be a fairy tale without a few cliches so I’m willing to forgive them.  What I really can’t forgive is the fact that the story ends without any real sense of finality.  Several major story threads aren’t tied up at all which left me a little irritated.  The book’s description on Amazon lists it as “book one.”  However, a search for any subsequent books proved to be unsuccessful and with this book first being published in 2011 I don’t hold much hope for a continuation.  

The second thing that bothered me about Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle was the length.  It clocks in at an incredibly short 28,000 words (132 pages).  I finished it within hours.  Normally I don’t find this a problem.  This time, however, I felt as though it left a lot underdeveloped.  Rose is a bit bland as a character and feels like more of a bag of stock character traits.  I didn’t really get a lot of insight into her character other than a handful of moments when she felt betrayed by Raven for various things.  The story itself also feels a bit rushed in places, especially towards the end.  The final confrontation with the antagonist goes by so quickly that it seems as though it’s a mere formality.

Summing it All Up

All and all, I thought Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle was a whimsical quick read.  The overall tone gives a foreboding and ominous feeling that really kept me on the edge of my seat.  However, it could’ve wrapped itself up a little nicer.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s fairly inexpensive at $2.99 USD.  However, if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read it for free. The author also has the first chapter posted on Wattpad as a free sample if you want to check it out there.

Do you have an idea for a book review?  Do you want me to review your book?  Did you like this book review?  Post it in the comments below!  I’m always looking for my next read!  And if you liked this post please consider subscribing or joining my email list!

Adventures in Troll Hunting or How to Deal with Rude Reviews

Since the dawn of the internet, trolls have moved out from under their bridges and into our favorite forums.  You’ve probably encountered a few of them if you’re active on social media.  A troll is the person that like to stir the pot, cause drama, and be mean spirited just for the sake of ‘because they can.’  However, as a writer trolls have a tendency to pop up where we really don’t want them: in the reviews/comments section.

 

We’ve all been there.  We get one of the hallowed notifications in our email.  Someone has left us a comment or review on a work that we poured our heart and soul into.  We open up that notification, eager to see what someone else has to say about the story.  Then comes the real kicker.  It isn’t praise.  It’s not even constructive criticism.  It’s a comment from and anonymous reader and it says something along the lines of:

troll 1Alright, so the example provided is pretty tame.  I know some writers have received a constant stream of messages telling them that they should stop writing because of reasons x, y, and z.  Some of them can be absolutely cruel and vicious.  A troll has nothing nice to say and their criticisms take the most out of your self esteem and motivation.  At least with constructive criticism you can apply the advice and make your writing better.  However, with trolls there is nothing there to indicate why they left the review/comment other than just to bring you down.

It takes some time but eventually you learn to shake the negativity of trolls.  It becomes easier to ignore them.  I think that troll hunting is one of the most important skills for all writers to have.  Here are my tips on dealing with the negative people who only want to tear you and your writing to shreds!

troll hunting
Fantastic artwork by UrsoPanda!
Arm yourself!

Stand up for your writing!  Don’t let these virtual strangers run all over you and shred you with their words.  Make a post that defends your writing.  Talk about why you’re proud of it, what you hoped to accomplish while writing it, and what you think you’ve improved on.  Focus on your positives!

Don’t Feed the Troll!

This might seem counter intuitive after just saying to respond to nasty remarks.  However, you don’t need to answer every single comment you receive.  Trolls feed off of your response.  They love to see the turmoil their words cause in your gut.  Publicly responding to each and every troll remark is a sure fire way to give them the satisfaction they seek.  Make your stand and then delete the negative.

Turn Off Anonymous Messaging!

For some reason, people on the internet are bolder when they can hide behind the ‘anonymous’ screen name.  They find it possible to say all sorts of horrible things if they don’t think it could ever be traced back to them.  Turning off their capability to be anonymous will immediately cut back on the amount of rude reviews you receive.  Most online publishing sites such as Tumblr, AO3, and FF.net have ways to monitor and disable reviews and comments made by unregistered users.  Use that feature.  It will make your life less stressful.

Surround Yourself with Love!

Not all of your reviews and comments are going to be rude trolls telling you to throw your paper and pens away.  Usually, for every rude troll there are at least two or three people who will tell you that they enjoy your story.  Focus on these reviews and comments.  These are the ones that are going to lift your spirits and make you want to put your fingers back to the keyboard.  They will also be the ones to tell your trolls to go back to their cave or bridge!

Keep Writing!

This last one is the most important!  Keep on writing no matter what anyone says. If you stop writing that’s when the trolls win.  If your writing isn’t the absolute greatest, that’s fine.  Practice makes perfect and continuing to write is what’s going to help you get better.

Those are my tips for dealing with rude reviews and trolls.  They drain a lot of your energy from time to time but don’t ever let them be the reason you stop writing!

So how do you deal with trolls and rude reviews when they rear their ugly heads?  Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think!  If you enjoyed this post then please click one of the share buttons and tell your friends!  If you really liked it then consider hitting that subscribe button on your way out the door!

Thanks and happy writing!


The artwork on this post is a commission from my really good friend Ursopanda on Tumblr.  You can check out her art here and her super cool comic Of Fairies and Ghosts here!

Fanfiction: Teaching New Writers How to Write

fanfiction

Fanfiction.  Just about every single author has an opinion on it.  Some authors are steadfastly against it.  Anne Rice launched a full out legal campaign that started the “please don’t sue me, I’m poor” disclaimers that can still be found on top of many fanfictions.  George R.R. Martin thinks writing fanfiction is lazy.  Diana Gabaldon maintains that fanfiction is illegal despite the fact that most people aren’t making money from it.

However, many authors hold a more favorable view on fanfiction.  J.K. Rowling welcomed fanfiction for her Harry Potter series.  Neil Gaiman also encourages it as does Meg Cabot.  In fact Cabot has an entire page devoted to the subject on her website.  She writes, “I think writing fan fiction is a good way for new writers to learn to tell a story.”  Quite frankly, I can’t help but agree.

I started writing at the very young age of 13.  I had no clue what I was doing.  My very first manuscript, which I dug up not that long ago, is written in a hanging indent.  Its format is the least of its problems.  Creating characters, a world, and a believable plot was completely foreign to me.  Little Artemis had zero clue.  Thankfully, I discovered fanfiction shortly after I began writing thanks in part to a close friend.

Like Cabot says, fanfiction offered me the perfect opportunity to hone my skills as a fledgling writer.  My first fan work, an awful Phantom of the Opera story, turned into a sandbox of possibilities for me.  I had a set of characters, a world, and even a plot already provided to me.  So what did I write about?  I made changes to the setting, I reimagined the characters as younger (closer to my own age), and I experimented with changes of point of view.  The plot was essentially the same as the original novel and the base characteristics of my main cast did not change.

Kind writers who clearly had more experience than I gave me more than ample constructive criticism.  That made it possible for me to actively examine my story as I wrote.  Even when I didn’t receive constructive criticism, the comments were overwhelmingly positive and made me want to continue writing.

Taking out a handful of elements made it possible for me to focus on the remaining elements exclusively.  Eventually, I started incorporating other elements one at a time.  I began creating original characters, not that they were very good but that’s okay, and inserting them into my fanfictions.  As I got better with character creation, I began trying my hand at world building.  Even that started out as making small changes to the world of the story is was writing fanfiction for.  What if Phantom of the Opera took place in a modern setting?  Or how about if the worlds in Kingdom Hearts weren’t separated by space?  Or if the heroes had actual weapons and not just oversized keys.

Finally, I turned my attention to original fiction again.  Plot came with more practice but that, again, is okay.  I never fully walked away from fanfiction though.  Before, I started a new story I almost always thought of it in terms of how it would fit in a fanfiction.  Without fanfiction I honestly never would’ve grown as a writer or come as far as I have.

I will never disparage writing fanfiction no matter where my journey as a writer takes me.  I’ve been writing stories for nearly 10+ years and good portion of that has been strictly in the realm of fanfiction.  To condemn it would not only be hypocritical of me but bad advice.  Remember that sandbox analogy I gave earlier?  It still rings true.  To learn you have to be able to goof off and play around with your writing.  Fanfiction gives a writer, from the most seasoned author to the most inexperienced newbie, a chance to practice their skills.  I highly encourage all authors to at least give it a try!

What do you think?  Have you ever written fanfiction to practice your writing?

Motivation and Setting A Goal For the New Year

There are thousands of ways writers find and keep motivation.  Looking at pictures, using writing prompts, talking with other writers, listening to music, outlining, storyboarding, reading… the list goes on and on.   There’s nothing wrong with any one way of keeping yourself motivation.  It’s pretty much what ever works the best for you.  However!  There is one way that I find works extremely well: goal setting.  It’s probably the education grad in me but I find that this is what works best for me.

A goal for motivation

How Can You Use a Goal for Motivation?

Goals keep us on task and working towards something.  A good goal is not only a long term goal but several short and mid term goals that act as stepping stones.  A good goal is measurable, meaning that you can see your progress as you go.  Personally, there is nothing more satisfying than watching your goal creep closer and closer.  It’s a mental thing.  It’s easier to move forward when you can see just how close you are to achieving something.  Also, when you start to feel like you’re stuck or going no where fast it can be reassuring to look back on what you have done! Almost like breathing a sigh of relief and telling yourself you aren’t going in circles.

Alright!  Hold on!

Before people start yelling about how setting a goal is the most BASIC of fundamentals for writing, let me ask you if you’ve written your goals down?  Have you shared your goals with anyone?  Have you found an accountability partner?  Remember!  It’s easy to feel the fires of determination at the very start.  It’s the new year, full of possibilities and anything can happen.  If you look ahead three weeks, a month, two months even it might be harder to feel that same burning determination.  In all honesty, it will probably feel more like that uncomfortable feeling of sitting too close to a bonfire.

Stay Motivated!

However, if you write down your goal and keep it some place you’re going to look at it frequently it will help you stay focused.  If you go the extra step and tell people about your goal, especially if it’s another writer friend, the chances are that the act of sharing your goal will kick your motivation in the butt and potentially give it the kickstart you’re looking for.  Even better!  Talk to that writer friend, or two, and see if you can convince them to go in on setting a goal with you.  Meet up, virtually or in person, on a weekly or biweekly basis to compare progress.  Check in with each other and see how they’re on track.  It’s always easier to stay motivated and on task when you know you aren’t alone in your journey.

A goal doesn’t have to be huge, say getting a novel or two published.  I mean, it can be but it isn’t absolutely necessary.  Sometimes a goal is as simple as writing 500,000 words in a year or just finishing your current project.  That’s fine.  Totally fine.  So long as you have one that’s the most important thing.  What sort of goals are you hoping to achieve this year?  Feel free to share in the comments!