The Cast


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Cast

Auditions are now open for your story. You need a cast of characters to carry this tale and it’s time to find them.

First we need a main character who normally is the protagonist. This is the person through whose view point we see the world. This person tells us thoughts and actions, intentions, and feelings. We want him/her to be the good guy and win in the end.

Next we need an antagonist, traditionally the bad guy. This character tries to stop the main character from reaching their goal, whether on purpose with diabolical evil or strictly by accident. This character can be someone who starts out one way then changes in midstream, or can be a person who never changes or wavers an inch while the protagonist grows and matures. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be a person at all but nature or even the protagonist against himself.

The fun begins when we mix it all up. Maybe our main character is not a good guy. Maybe our protagonist is really the bad guy and we use him to show the world the other side of the coin. And then the antagonist can be the one trying to thwart the bad guy.

I have heard some famous actors say that playing the bad guy in a play or movie is the most fun acting.

Open your imagination to the “what ifs” of the darker side of the world and have some fun.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

By Nandy Ekle

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The Cast


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Cast

By Nandy Ekle

 

Auditions are now open for your story. You need a cast of characters to carry this tale and it’s time to find them.

First we need a main character who normally is the protagonist. This is the person through whose view point we see the world. This person tells us thoughts and actions, intentions, and feelings. We want him/her to be the good guy and win in the end.

Next we need an antagonist, traditionally the bad guy. This character tries to stop the main character from reaching their goal, whether on purpose with diabolical evil or strictly by accident. This character can be someone who starts out one way then changes in midstream, or can be a person who never changes or wavers an inch while the protagonist grows and matures. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be a person at all but nature or even the protagonist against himself.

The fun begins when we mix it all up. Maybe our main character is not a good guy. Maybe our protagonist is really the bad guy and we use him to show the world the other side of the coin. And then the antagonist can be the one trying to thwart the bad guy.

I have heard some famous actors say that playing the bad guy in a play or movie is the most fun acting.

Open your imagination to the “what ifs” of the darker side of the world and have some fun.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

Same Song, Different Tune


Outtakes 195

Same Song, Different Tune

By Cait Collins

 

Three boys grew up together. They were closer than brothers. When they entered college, they chose the same major, planned to graduate together, and work together. But on graduation night one walks the stage to get his degree. Ten years later, they are reunited. What happened to separate the boys? What brought them back together?

On the surface, there is nothing new to this story. It’s been told time and again, because there are a limited number of stories. Depending on the instructor and the text book used, we were taught there are between four and seven stories; man against man, man against nature, man against himself, and coming of age are the most common themes. Yet each retelling can be new and exciting. It all depends on the writer, his theme, his characters, and the circumstances around which he builds the story.

What if the first boy was badly injured in a car accident while on vacation? The head injury resulted in a memory loss. He wanders the country looking for home. The second boy is forced to drop out of college when his mom, a single parent, dies suddenly. He has two younger siblings that need a guardian, and so he moves home to care for them; The third continues his studies, graduates, gets his masters degree, and makes a name for himself in his chosen profession. A news bulletin changes all three lives.

I’m playing with this story line.

I have a number of questions to deal with. What is the profession the boys planned to pursue? They need names. I’ll start out with Tom, Dick, and Harry. The characters will tell me who they really are. Who is the antagonist? I need three, maybe four major settings. What are their social backgrounds? Do they all have brothers and sisters? What secondary character will enter the story? Am I writing a novel or a novella? Is my work a mystery or closer to mainstream?

The process of creating a new work is both exciting and frustrating. There will be days when I am prolific and days when I struggle to write one paragraph. At this point I know one thing. Three boys, now men, will reunite. But will their reunion by joyous or a heartbreak? Truth is, I don’t know; however, they will tell me. The men will guide the story. I look forward to the adventure.

 

 

Functions of Dynamic Pairs


Functions of Dynamic Pairs

PROTAGONIST <—> ANTAGONIST

GUARDIAN <–> CONTAGONIST

REASON <–> EMOTION

SIDEKICK <–> SKEPTIC

 

Archetypal pairs represent a broad analogy to a human mind dealing with a problem. The Protagonist represents the desire to work at resolving the problem. Its Dynamic Pair, the Antagonist represents the desire to let the problem grow. As with the Archetypal Characters, we all face an internal battle between making decisions based upon Reason or upon Emotion. Like the functions of the Sidekick and Skeptic, will contain a struggle between Faith and Disbelief. And finally in an Archetypal sense, the Mind will be torn between the Contagonist’s temptation for immediate gratification and the Guardian’s counsel to consider the consequences.

Dramatica, A New Theory of Story — Copyright (c) 1993 – 2001

Characterization Part 5



Characterization Part 5

By Natalie Bright

 

I’m reviewing my notes from past conferences and blogging about characterization. Please feel free to comment on any tips you’ve learned on developing believable and likable characters. The past few blogs have been a hodge-podge on all concepts of developing characters. We’re digging deeper again this week, because really, you just can’t know enough about your characters.

Have you completed a character questionnaire yet? There are tons of great examples on the web.

Keep Digging Deeper

What is the one unique component of literature that humans enjoy? The key that all writers strive for? The take-away that readers can take pleasure in?

The answer: emotion.

We can read a story and find joy or fear. We can laugh out loud at the antics of a main character, or we can weep for concern at their plight. The power of the written word is an amazing thing.

As a writer, we must dig deeper. You have your character’s profile and you know their attitudes. As Steven James said, “What are your characters passionate about, desire, most ashamed about, afraid to pursue? Now give them what they want the most and snatch it away. Dangle her heart’s desire in front of her and never let her have it.”

Finding Emotion

We’re just human, with human emotions and life experiences. Real life events of experiencing or observing provides the basis from which our characters emerge.

How can your character respond to death unless you draw upon your experiences in being at someone’s bedside when they passed? How can your character experience love lost unless you weep as you write it? How can you write about the power of indifference without drawing upon your own past? Even if you haven’t experienced the emotion, then you can probably find someone who has.

Authors can’t be sissy’s about this. We have to go there. We have to revisit those painful experiences again and convey them to our readers through the fictional characters we create. I’m not saying it has to be the exact same experience, but you can apply the emotions you’ve felt to fictional situations. As your heroine meets those challenges and overcomes the obstacles, this becomes the character arc.

Developing the Character Arc

Character arc is defined as the emotional problems through which the protagonist (and antagonist and sometimes secondary characters) must face to achieve their goal. 

As bestselling author Steven James points out, “At the heart of every story is tension, and tension is that unmet desire which includes both external and internal.” As your character tries to achieve that desire and overcomes the antagonist, they change, they grow, they become better for their experiences. You must dig past the surface elements of your story and determine the why

Some of the most common arcs are: going from emotionally dead to being emotionally alive, learn to accept other’s faults, overcome a fear, learn to take risks, overcome guilt, learn to accept his own faults; and the list can go on and on. These are most obvious in movie screenplays where characters struggle with some emotional dilemma that is resolved at the end regardless of the action going on around them.

More Conflict Please

In order to dig deeper, Jodi Thomas suggests all dialogue reflect some type of conflict. “It’s not necessarily a conflict between the two characters speaking. One could be having internal conflict while they’re saying something else,” Thomas says.

Author Jennifer Talty explained that, “conflict is the fuel that starts your story. The internal motivation of your character is the fuel that drives your story.” 

As the core conflict between the protag and antag increases, the internal emotional conflict escalates and becomes your character’s arc.

For more information, Goal Motivation Conflict by Deb Dixon is an excellent addition for your writer’s reference library.

Have fun and keep writing!

Nat

 

Characterization Part 3



Characterization Part 3

By Natalie Bright

 

From last week, did you develop a history and family chart for your character? Next, let’s dig even deeper and consider how their life experiences might influence their actions and responses to the conflict in your plot.

The Power of Control

When you get right down to it, I think people throughout the world and through time have experienced the same emotions. Being human means we have the ability to practice self-control and we cover our genitals (and there are always exceptions). Fictional characters would draw on those same emotions. They’d also be influenced by traits of their experiences, both past and present.

Author Steven James talked about the power of control in a main character in a special session at OWFI con in Oklahoma City. Self-control and silence are remarkable traits for the hero. “Heroes don’t back down,” he said. Stillness, silence, body stance, and a slow response can evoke power. Would 007 ever run from the room screaming like a girl? Through internal dialogue, your main character may be having a total meltdown but on the outside the villain only sees calm and control. This makes an intense scene for the reader.

Develop the Differences

reflect on the differences for your protag and antag, and then take everything to the next level for fictional characters. For example, consider the Texas Panhandle where I live. A visitor from Florida commented how busy everyone is here. She said we’re always going somewhere to do something, evidenced by our recurring reference of “fixin’ to”.  She told me that people in Florida don’t seem to be that busy at doing anything or even making plans. Her comment surprised me in that the differences would even be that noticeable.

We’ve seen this a hundred times; a character is put into a new situation, a new city, or a different world in which their normalcy is now outside the norm, and often times extremely strange.  Develop the differences.

I remember talking to a group of Chinese college students who were amazed that they could drive outside of town to where there were no people.  They were shocked to drive down a dirt road to our home and not meet another car. At the time, they lived in apartments owned by my in-laws and they would ask the strangest questions, “Who gave you permission to buy this building.” “How were you assigned to this land?” “Who tells you how many cattle you can own?” They couldn’t comprehend that my husband managed property he actually owned, which he was capable of repairing and leasing to people of his choosing. The idea that families could own grassland and decide how many cattle the land will support was an unbelievable concept to these exchange students. To me, being assigned an apartment and having a job which I didn’t choose seems just as strange.

What If

I love meeting new people and learning about their lives. Aren’t humans fascinating? Fictional characters can be just as enthralling. Dig deeper to determine the differences between your heroes and villains and then make them larger than life. Create conflict. Utilize both external and internal issues and build intensity with emotion.

As the character dynamics swirl around in your head and as you consider the “what if”, you’ll come away with a ton of conflict for your plot line based on the feelings and desires of your characters. Once you really know your fictional creations, you can let them take you on their journey.

Bestselling author Jodi Thomas pointed out, “Characters are interesting only to the extent that they grate on each other.”

Have fun and Keep writing!

Characterization Part II


Characterization Part II
by N. Bright

I’m going back through my conference notes to provide you with a hodge-podge of all things on character development over the next several weeks. (I might add that in a past job I used short-hand every day, so I’m a diligent note-taker. In today’s world his useless skill is next to impossible to forget.)

Creating Ancestors

It was a larger-than-life character who came to me in a dream which caused me to become obsessed with learning everything I could about characterization. As pointed out by a few writer friends, I wrote her adventures but had never given this character a past.

The idea for a young girl who lived on the Texas frontier appeared in my head so vibrant and alive, I couldn’t shake her. Her adventures began as little snippets of scenes in no particular order. As I began thinking about her life, she’d have to be a little independent and more worldly than most kids her age. Her father is a U.S. Marshall so he’d be gone a lot. Her mother is of Mexican descent from a sheepherding family. She loves books, thanks to an Aunt, so her vocabulary would be above average and well-developed. I can imagine she was riding horses at a very young age along with fishing and exploring and doing chores; all of the things necessary for survival on the frontier. All of these things come together to create what I hope to be a unique and memorable character.

Just like real people, your characters must have a past life filled with family, friends, joys, and loss; all of the things that shape their motivation and personality. This gives your characters dimension and believability.

Character History

Most writers I know are curious and fascinated by human nature and their motives. This should be a fun process for you. As you develop your characters past, consider where they grew up, why they moved there and where their families came from.

My grandmother told me about traveling by wagon with her parents to Texas from Oklahoma. That was only three generations away; not that long ago. That independent, can-do spirit remains in the people here, much like those before us who came to this barren place to build towns and raise families in the middle of nowhere. Our buildings and communities are not that old, as compared to places in the eastern United States. I get aggravated at the way we seem to so readily tear down the old to build new in this part of the country. I guess we’re still in pioneer mode.

Kids in this area play video games just like big city kids. My kids and their friends watch movies, read books, and love their iPhones, too.  On the other hand, families here have space; to ride 4-wheelers in sandy river beds, fish and ski on area lakes, and the mountain ski slopes are only half-a-days drive away. As an FYI, not everyone in Texas owns a horse, however, I think my kids are a little more “out-doorsman” than urban kids, but probably not as much as kids from Alaska might be.

Your characters are no different. There is much to think about when considering the many influences that shaped their behavior.

Keep writing and have fun creating a past life for your characters!

Time Out


Outtakes 31

Time Out

It’s tax season in my business. We’re working long days plus Saturdays and never seem to make much of a dent in the work load. By the time I get home from the office I’m so tired I don’t want to read my personal email or work on my novel. I’m sure many writers who have full time jobs face the same issue. We realize there are times when life interferes with our creative endeavors.  It’s at this time, we must “knuckle-down, buckle-down and do it, do it, do it”.  Quitting or taking a break isn’t in the vocabulary. Then again there are times my characters won’t let me stop.

Just yesterday morning, my antagonist, King Phillips, visited me while I applied my make-up. “They won’t get away with it, you know. Does that stuffed-shirt of a bank manager think he’ll foreclose on my property? I keep saying I have leverage, and I do. I can’t wait to see the look on the man’s face when I walk in, hand him the certified check, and pay off the loans. Then, I’ll close my accounts. What do you think of that, writer lady?”

“Hmm, good question. But, Phillips you haven’t found out about the federal investigation into the loans. Nor do you know what Kate read in the journal and the documents Chad found. So when you demand to close your accounts, you’ll get hit with a major curve. Your assets are frozen. What do you think of that, King?”

“No way! Who planned that little zinger? My money is my property, and no one can have it.”

“Oh, guess again, Phillips. I have plans for your money and property. You may hold four queens, but someone else has four aces and a joker. Joker’s wild. You lose.”

“Wait a minute, writer lady. You can’t…”

“Sorry, King, I have to run or I’ll be late for work.”

Darn, reality. I was on a roll.

Cait Collins

The Cast


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Cast

Auditions are now open for your story. You need a cast of characters to carry this tale and it’s time to find them.

First we need a main character who normally is the protagonist. This is the person through whose view point we see the world. This person tells us thoughts and actions, intentions, and feelings. We want him/her to be the good guy and win in the end.

Next we need an antagonist, traditionally the bad guy. This character tries to stop the main character from reaching their goal, whether on purpose with diabolical evil or strictly by accident. This character can be someone who starts out one way then changes in midstream, or can be a person who never changes or wavers an inch while the protagonist grows and matures. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be a person at all but nature or even the protagonist against himself.

The fun begins when we mix it all up. Maybe our main character is not a good guy. Maybe our protagonist is really the bad guy and we use him to show the world the other side of the coin. And then the antagonist can be the one trying to thwart the bad guy.

I have heard some famous actors say that playing the bad guy in a play or movie is the most fun acting.

Open your imagination to the “what ifs” of the darker side of the world and have some fun.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

By Nandy Ekle

Ethan


Ethan

 Have you ever wondered what kids are thinking? Why they do what they do? I have because I’m blessed with many nieces and nephews who give me grins and giggles. Take my two-year-old nephew, Ethan, for example. From the time he was able to hold on to a quarter, my sister and brother-in-law taught Ethan the importance of giving to God. Every Sunday, Ethan would clutch his quarter and wait for the collection plate to be passed. One Sunday morning, he saw the men coming down the aisle with the collection plates. He jumped out of Paw-Paw’s lap and ran toward the ushers. The closest man bent down to allow Ethan to drop his money into the plate. He turned to find his grandfather coming to get him. Beaming, the little cherub raised his arms to be picked up. Aha. I knew what was going on in Ethan’s mind. God loves a cheerful giver.

I teach the little ones in Sunday School. My kids are between four months and two years in age. (Yes, you can teach these children.) One of our main themes is God loves us and gives us good things. Ethan was one of my regular students.  One Sunday morning, the collection plate came to Ethan. Not only did he put his money in the plate, he also tossed in his ratty rubber alligator. A flush crept up Dean’s neck as he grabbed the toy. I leaned forward, “How sweet,” I whispered, “Ethan gave God something he loves.”

Of course I can’t read minds, but the explanations were obvious to me. The reality is Ethan had a motive, a reason for his actions. And so must our characters have motives for the things they do. In my current novel HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW, Kate Walker returns to her home town in response to a phone call from the town doctor. Her grandmother had a heart attack and is not expected to live. At this point, her sole motivation is to see her grandmother and take care of her. But things change. After Miss Lucille’s death, past events and current events combine creating a new purpose for Kate. She wants justice for herself, her grandmother, and her friend Travis.

The antagonist, King Phillips, is a bully, power hungry, and self-important. He has one ambition; to own the Walker family property. He threatened and attempted to intimidate Miss Lucille into selling and now he’s after Kate. His motive seems straightforward, but is it? Is there some other reason King demands Kate sell out to him?

The characters’ motives create conflict. In this case King uses every means, every threat to obtain the land. Kate is equally determined to honor her grandmother’s request not to sell out to Phillips. Their battle comes to a head with surprising revelations. Throughout the story, their actions must be in keeping with the motives. For example, if Kate says she forgives King, it would not be in keeping with her desire for justice. Nor would King be in character if he took pity on Miss Lucille’s granddaughter.  They must be consistent as they pursue their goals.

In order to keep the characters’ actions in keeping with their motives, you have to know who they are. The past, present, and future aspirations should be part of the character sketches you create. I’m not one for long, detailed character sketches, but I believe in a bit of back story. You need to know when the character was born, age at the time of major events in their life, socio-economic status, and where you plan to take him. You also need to hint of the setting. Does he live in a small town or a major city? Can you describe where he lives? What does he do for a living? While I might not write it all down, the information is in my head. By knowing your characters and their desires and motivation, you can lead them from hook to resolution and take your readers along for the ride.

Cait Collins