CHARACTER TRAITS


CHARACTER TRAITS

Natalie Bright

 

 

Whether you craft detailed character profiles or you let the character take you on their journey, it is helpful to really KNOW your character’s personality. By understanding the inner core of your characters, you understand their personalities, motivations, and how they will react to conflict and to each other. There are several books that make your job easier.

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein

From Sex to Schizophrenia: Everything you need to develop your characters! As a psychology-based book for writers, this is an excellent addition for your reference library. With insightful summaries, you can dig deep into motivation and conflict, and create complex characters that readers love.

45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

This book explores the common male and female archetypes that have been used in story-telling for centuries. This gives you ideas for traits, habits, hidden secrets, desires and greatest fears as a foundation for creating compelling characters and storylines. Dig deep and ask why. This will help you understand your characters’ motivation, making them intriguing and realistic. And added bonus are the examples for each archetype drawn from literature, television and movies. This is a great book.

Happy Writing!

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Storytelling Narration


Storytelling Narration

“Stories are our primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of
our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world. Think about
how many times a day you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories
or common-sense advice.”

– Edward Miller, founder of Edward Elementary, illustrator and product
designer

Active Story Narration


Active Story Narration

Natalie Bright

Defined:story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious. The art, technique, or process of narrating, or of telling a story.

Verbs can be a valuable tool in telling a story.

The right verb can evoke emotion, create strong imagery, and set the scene in the mind of your reader. Active verbs can be powerful and put your story in motion. In grade school when my sons worked on their homework using “spicey” words. I love that!

The “B” verbs have got to go: be, being, been, was, were, is. Hands up: who else is a “was” fan. I use it all the time. During my second pass of edits I find and replace as many of them as I possibly can. You probably have some common or overused verbs in your work. They only dull your sentences.

Here are a few examples:

Is fighting TO: attacked.

Was mad TO: flipped out.

Was walking TO: shuffled.

Was running TO: darted.

Don’t be afraid to let your verbs do the heavy lifting in your story narration.

 

COMMON THEMES FOR STORY NARRATION


COMMON THEMES FOR STORY NARRATION

Natalie Bright

My work in progress involves a narrow focus for research, but I’m finding so much great historical information I want the readers to know it all too. For my nonfiction book though, I’m forcing myself to stop chasing every topic that I might stumble across and instead, keep to the theme.

If you have trouble staying on task within your story narration like I sometimes do, you might consider writing under a common theme. Themes can be used for fiction as well. Write the theme in big letters and post it on your bulletin board so that you can be reminded. Your character’s motivation, conflicts, and the way they react to that obstacle can reflect the theme.

Some of the more common ones are listed below, and you might recognize them in your favorite books or movies.

Perseverance:

The main character never gives up no matter what obstacles are thrown in his path to achieving his goal. As the writer, you can make his life miserable, throw everything at him you can, and he will persevere.

Cooperation:

The main character is a leader who encourages others to work together, and the band of characters cooperate to solve the problem.

Courage:

The main character discovers his/her own inner strength to overcome fear and finds the courage to take the risk.

Acceptance:

The main character accepts their fate, accepts the reality of their world, or accepts others’ differences.

 

The Hero’s Journey: A Narrative Pattern


The Hero’s Journey: A Narrative Pattern

Natalie Bright

 

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” WILLA CATHER

 

It’s impossible to cover the topic of narration during this month without touching upon THE HERO’S JOURNEY.

First identified by American scholar Joseph Campbell, it appears in storytelling across generations. Once you understand the basic narrative pattern you will recognize it immediately in myth and legends, more often in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Many filmmakers owe their success to this enduring story pattern.

The main character, the hero, accomplishes amazing feats on behalf of the rest of us. The story focuses on his journey or adventure. The hero is a universal character, crossing time and cultures.

The stages are as follows:

  1. The Ordinary World
    2. The Call of Adventure
    3. Refusal of the Call
    4. Meeting the Mentor
    5. Crossing the First Threshold
    6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
    7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
    8. The Ordeal
    9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
    10. The Road Back
    11. Resurrection
    12. Return with the Elixir

One of the most obvious movies that uses this pattern of narration is STAR WARS. Luke Skywalker receives the call to adventure but refuses at first.  Watch this movie again and take notes as you follow the outline above. I encourage you to find out more about the Hero’s Journey and how it can help you develop your characters and the plot of your book.

Happy Writing!

 

SCENE AND SEQUEL


SCENE AND SEQUEL

Nattalie Bright

At a writer’s conference held on the campus of WTA&M University in Canyon, Texas, award-winning author Dusty Richards talked to us about scene and sequel when plotting. This is the method that he used to write his popular Byrnes Family Ranch series.

Scene structure = goal, conflict, disaster

Every scene starts with:

  1. character
  2. the viewpoint character
  3. what does he want to accomplish in the confrontation that about to happen
  4. a stepping stone to the big-picture story goal

The story goal in the scene can be stated through dialogue beforehand, internal dialogue through character thought, or stated in the opening line of the scene.

What happens next is the sequel. The pattern of sequel is:

  1. emotion
  2. quandary
  3. decision
  4. action

More on scene and sequel next week.

Follow us all month long as we blog about Story Plot. Happy writing!

 

The Perfect Story


The Perfect Story

Natalie Bright

Generations of parents passed down bits of wisdom to their offspring in the form of stories before he could write those stories down. “Tell Me a Story” gave way to “Read Me A Story”; a long-held family tradition.

The story holds our attention because of conflict. At the core of every story are three basic plots for conflict.

Man against Man

Man against Nature

Man against Himself

The story that holds our attention whether it’s a blockbuster movie or bestselling book, contains a form of all three.

 

 

Punctuation and Dialogue


Punctuation and Dialogue

Natalie Bright

 

Short pause: Commas.

Medium pause: parentheses, semicolon, em dash.

Long pause: period, question mark, exclamation mark, colon.

  • A readers’ reaction to punctuation is involuntary.
  • Remember to always create a new paragraph for each change of a different character speaking and keep the punctuation inside the quotation marks.
  • If you are using a dialogue tag, then use a comma inside the quotation marks before the tag. Use a period if you are not using a tag after.
  • If the action or dialogue tag comes first, a comma goes after the tag and a period falls inside the quotation marks at the end. If the period or exclamation mark punctuates the main sentence, then it falls outside the quotation marks.

For your writing reference library, add THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE.

Dialogue Tags


Dialogue Tags

Natalie Bright

Dialogue is spoken communication between characters. The purpose of a tag line is to let your reader know which character is speaking.

Most commonly used dialogue tags:

Said

Asked

Yelled

Hollered

Whispered

As a reader, we hardly notice the tag lines. “He/she said” is boring, and our eyes are used to reading said. We want to know what’s between the quotation marks.

Seriously, can a person “screech” or “Sigh” or “acknowledge” words? Can you “laugh” a sentence? Instead use descriptive words to create motion or response in your characters. Over use of anything besides “said” can be annoying. Think of how you can use narrative in place of tag lines.

One of the best resources for an explanation of dialogue is the book WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE AND FLASH FICTION by Harvey Stanbrough. I highly recommend this book as an addition to your writing reference library.

Here’s an example from Mr. Stanbrough’s book:

She approached him cautiously. “Come on now, Baby,” she cooed. “You don’t want that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

He swung the knife in a wild arc. “I just can’t stand it anymore!” he exclaimed. “I’ve had it?”

If you read the same passage above out loud omitting the tag lines, it reads the same. In fact, we might even say that the tag lines of cooed and exclaimed are somewhat annoying. You could add a he said or she said if you want, but the action and narrative helps us know who is talking. The imagery is still the same no matter what tag lines you use.

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

natalie

LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS


LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS

Natalie Bright

 

A discussion at a writer’s workshop led by Jane Graves, an award-winning author of contemporary romance, changed the way I think about writing.

Her advice was to, “Hone in on the one thing that speaks to you. Freshness and originality comes from what you can imagine.”

Are your characters waking you up at night? Do their conversations light a fire in your gut? What do they want? Who are they?

I know this may seem abnormal to most folks, but my characters have complete conversations. I have no idea where they are or even who they are, but I know without a doubt that what I’m overhearing is important to my work in progress or something I’ll be writing in the future. My writing took on new meaning and depth when I started listening to what they were saying.

My big dreams were to be an award-winning romance novelist, but the words in my head were mostly kids, more specifically children who lived in the Texas frontier of all places. In the beginning of my writing journey, I pushed the voices out of my head and tried to create romance stories. The whole creative process was a chore; I hated the characters, the dreary plotline, and the editing process seemed like torture. What made me think that I’d ever be able to write a novel?

Janes’ words got me to thinking. What I’ve been obsessed with since a very early age, besides writing a book, is history and stories set in the Old West. Everything about that time period fascinates me and I consume historical fiction and nonfiction like air.

Believe me I’ve tried to change the ages of my characters so they’d fit a publisher’s specs, follow the advice of my husband who said if I’d write a marketable romance it would be easier to sell, and considered the ideas of a well-meaning editor who insisted I add a werewolf to make a western tale marketable. The writing process wasn’t fun anymore until I finally gave in the voices inside my head. I haven’t looked back since.  You are unique, and only you can write the story that needs to be told. Have confidence in your abilities and story-telling instincts. Have confidence in your characters. Let them show you the way.