T is for Traits

As a writer, this is a big question every time I sit down to write. What do I want my characters to embody? Is it something that I resonate with or is it something against everything I believe in. People are not two-dimensional beings and I don’t believe that characters should be either. People are extraordinarily complex and rarely have a single clear cut reason for doing anything.

For example, someone who volunteers at a food pantry may have a myriad of reasons that they do so. Their parents may have done so, so they do it out a sense of familiarity and tradition. On the other hand, maybe they grew up poor and were often hungry, so they want to give back so others don’t feel that pain. Maybe their love language is feeding others, so it’s a way to share their warmth with the world. Or it could be something else. They were caught shoplifting and ordered by the court to do community service. Maybe they’re looking for someone to do a criminal act for them and think that they can find that person amongst the homeless and people down on their luck. Could be that they are just doing it for appearance’s sake, so they can look like good citizens. The possibilities are endless.

So what are some traits that I look for and prize in my characters?

Loyalty

I can deal with a lot of less than ideal traits in my characters, after all, they would be no fun if they were perfect. However, if they are disloyal, they are the villain. Someone who turns their back on their friends and family is not someone that I want to associate with at all.

Compassion

They don’t have to be a bleeding heart that tries to fix others woes but they have to have a sense of humanity. They have to be willing to extend a helping hand to those around them and to accept help that it offered to them occasionally. They have to see the problems around them and not just look away but try to help out somehow.

Humor

They have to have a sense of humor. It can be subtle, witty, dry, odd, any type you can think of. But if someone is serious and straight laced all the time, they quickly become boring and two-dimensional in my mind. I soon lose all interest in them and they fade away in my stories.

 

What sort of traits do you look for in characters?

 

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H is for Hidden Heroes

Welcome to week two of the A to Z Challenge. I can’t believe how much fun week one was and I was blown away by how many people liked and commented on my posts. You guys are awesome. Also, I got to read some marvelous posts and I can’t wait to see more in the coming weeks.

 

So the post for today is about Heroes. Face it, every story has a hero, no matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. In fiction, it’s usually a person or an animal. In non-fiction, it’s an object or subject. For example, in a non-fiction book about agriculture, farming is the hero of the book. Why is it the hero? Without it, the book cannot exist. Take a look at any book. What person or subject if you remove it, makes the book impossible? That is the hero of the story.

 

However, that is not to say that there is only one hero in any given story. Stories are complex, intricate things, much like humans are. Which isn’t really a surprise, because what are stories but the result of human’s dreams and imagination? So while there is usually an instantly visible hero, there are also hidden heroes. Yes, you heard me right. Hidden heroes. ‘But’, you say, ‘You just told us that without the Hero, the story wouldn’t exist’. That’s true, I did indeed just say that. But at the end of the day, heroes aren’t infallible. In the course of a story, there are often many times that a hero would’ve fallen or given up if there wasn’t someone there to support him or give him something to fight for. These characters are the ones that I like to refer to as hidden heroes.

 

samfrodo_twotowers

 

One of my favorite hidden heroes is Samwise from Lord of the Rings. Although he thinks of himself as a simple hobbit, he is the reason in the end that the ring is destroyed. There are so many times that Frodo would’ve never made it to Mordor without Sam’s help. His perseverance and loyalty are truly awe inspiring and sometimes having just one friend at our side can make all the difference. Not to mention that he risked giant spiders to save his friend with only a vial of light and Sting. Shudder, those were some big spiders. I’m not afraid of spiders but I sure would have arachnophobia after encountering those things. No matter how tired he got, or stressed, or even betrayed by his friends, Sam never gave up, never faltered in his quest to help Mr. Frodo. Can you imagine what you could achieve with a friend like that at your back?

 

However, there is one point, in the second book “The Two Towers” where Sam and Frodo have hit one of the lowest places in their journey. The have been captured and taken from their trek to Mordor and while captured, they have been attacked. Frodo has reached his breaking point and tells Sam that he can’t do this, he can’t go on. I believe that this is the truly pivotal point in the journey and that there is a real chance of Frodo giving up and going home right then and there. And Sam doesn’t argue with him, doesn’t tell him all the reasons why they have to get the ring to Mordor. Instead, he simply shares his heart, giving Frodo the strength to keep going. This scene makes me tear up almost every time.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6C8SX0mWP0

 

Here is beautiful kinetic typology of his speech. Kinetic typology is a fascinating thing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pErpW0vFtPE

 

So who is your favorite Hidden Hero? I can’t wait to see 😊

D is for Dedication

So I’m going to be real for a moment. I love almost everything about writing (editing is another matter, but let’s not go there right now). Even when I’m wondering why I gave my character a name that’s a pain to write or spellcheck is upset for the umpteenth time about I word that I created and have added to the dictionary multiple times. But sometimes, writing is hard.

This is where dedication comes in. There are days when I’m sick, when I’m exhausted, when the whole world just seems to throw every roadblock they can in my way. There are days when I am so frustrated with a character that I sit at my keyboard and literally cry. I have spent hours looking at a blank page and blinking cursor because I have written my book into a corner and there is literally no way to proceed. I live through my characters’ emotions as I write and there have been days when I’ve been emotionally depleted and my family still expected me to be a functioning human being. I have argued with my family about how much time my writing takes, I have argued with my characters, I have argued with my family about arguing with my characters. After all, I’ve created them, I should just be able to write whatever I want to happen.

Then there are the physical problems. I’ve had computers restart themselves, losing everything I just spent hours typing. I’ve had cats step on my keyboard to the same effect. There is also the ongoing battle between the cats and my writing for attention, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped cats off my lap only for them to levitate back less than two seconds later. I’ve also lost track of how many times I’ve told them to get their paws off my keyboard.

So with all of these obstacles, why do I write? I write because it fulfills a part of my soul. When I write, I can become anyone or anything. I can go anywhere and do anything. There are literally no limits for what I can do, see, feel, or think. Also, it’s a duty. These characters have entrusted their story to me and it is my job to make sure that it is not forgotten, lost to the grind and stress of daily life. And in a way, I write because it’s magic. Because not only can I become anyone or experience anything, so can people who read my words. They can share the experience, but with a totally unique filter to them. A thousand people can read the exact same thing, but it will be retold in a thousand new ways. That is why I write.

What is something that requires dedication in your life? How do you overcome the daily stresses that life throws at you?

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C is for Characters

developing-characters

Now this is one of my all time favorite parts of writing. Creating the characters. Every writer has a different method of creating characters. Some look at pictures and build from there, others start with character traits and then work outwards to their characters appearance. For me, it’s different with every character I create.

When I first met Aletta Sheridan, she was pouting. This intrigued me. For me, I want my characters to be real enough that I could meet them on the street. So when I sat down to write, all I had was the title name “In Search of Justice” and a general plot. When I sat down to start writing, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, then centered myself and looked for the main character of my novel. Instantly, I saw an agent sitting at a desk pouting with a slowly dying houseplant on the corner of the desk, benched because she refuses to accept a partner. Names mean a lot to me, I like to tuck hidden meanings into them, so imagine my surprise when she stubbornly insisted that her name was Aletta. I was able to convince her to use the last name Sheridan, which means seeker, but she was Aletta and that was that.

Every time a character appears to me, they are already fully formed physically and each one is distinct. Aletta is about 5’7”, has light colored skin, extremely curly blue-black hair that reaches mid-back, and amber colored eyes. She is typically dressed in practical clothes because she never knows what she’ll find during her time on-duty, but has a love for brightly dyed clothing. She hates high heels, but has a pair of high heeled boots that she absolutely adores.

They also have unique personalities and I never know what will appear as I get to know them better. I knew right away that Aletta was training to be an opera singer, but I didn’t know why she had left (more of that in book two of the series, coming soon). I know that she’s open hearted, which she gets from her mother, but that she has a temper as well. However, she finds fulfillment in her job as an agent for HSI, something that she hadn’t anticipated. She also has a chocolate addiction but loathes white chocolate. She loves her independence but can be a team player as well. She is at times a walking contradiction.

Lirim on the other hand, was a little more planned out. The supernatural to Aletta’s human, his name means freedom, while his last name Bosk means a small copse of trees. It is meant to allude to his connection to nature. He is fae but refused to be something as overused as an Elf, instead he is a Wild One, also known as a Sprite. When he and Aletta first met, I saw him as quite and reserved, never knowing that he has quite the mischievous streak and warmth to him.

Physically, Lirim is 6’2” and slender, but that slenderness is deceptive because he is very strong. He had deep green eyes, shoulder length straight black hair, tanned skin, and slightly pointed ears.

He is quiet but surprisingly frank about his past and the scars that he bears. He was trained to be a guard for the Glade (more about that to come in book 3) and he fought in the Outlander War. The Outlander War was a brutal conflict and it left him with scars, emotional, mental, and physical. He is the one that recognizes Aletta’s gift for what it is and he has a protective streak a mile wide. He is a terrible fry snob and his humor can occur at the oddest moments, but he has a gentle side as well.

The more time I spend writing these characters, the more facets of their personality I discover, much like the more time you spend with people, the more you find out about them. So how do you create your characters? Or what draws you to a character when you read? Let me know your thoughts on the matter 😊

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