Write Here in Ephraim

Saturday was the Write Here in Ephraim conference. It was incredibly fun. I learned a lot, talked to awesome people, and generally enjoyed my time away from Utah County for the first time in a long time. I’ve been so busy with school and work that I haven’t had any time to get out and travel anywhere (not that I get to all that often anyway – too expensive). The classes I took were awesome and really helped me. I’m once again excited to write. That’s probably the best part about these conferences. They totally pump me up for writing again, and I’m productive for a while. And since I’m still mostly productive from LTUE, this was just icing on top of the cake! I’m going to try to share my notes here. It could be interesting though, because I’m not sure how much sense it will make to everyone else. Hopefully your brains are all as crazy as mine! (Probably not) I’ll try to put a new one up each day. Starting now.

Creating Engaging Characters: Given by Heather Justesen

  • Different kinds of characters
    • MC – the people your readers should care about, they are the ones the story is about
    • Secondary characters – people who move in and out of the story
    • Walk-on characters – people who are in the background, waitresses, clerks, people the cross on the street. Don’t describe them if they aren’t important.
    • How we get to know characters
      • Their actions
      • Their motivations
      • Their past – what they’ve done, or what’s been done to them
      • What are their goals and dreams? What are they doing to achieve them? Are they doing anything?
      • How do they react with their setting – use it to show who they are
      • Their reputation
      • Stereotypes – use this to show that they aren’t what others think they are
      • Network – who are they in a given crowd?
      • Habits and patterns
      • Talents and abilities
      • Tastes and Preferences
      • Body, and how they see themselves
      • Is the character interesting
        • To YOU! – They need to be interesting to you, or they won’t be interesting to anyone else.
        • If you don’t find them intriguing and want to learn more, neither will your reader. If you don’t feel that way, then find something more about the character that will intrigue you.
        • Learn about your character
          • Interview
            • Who, what, when, where, why – let one question lead to the next
  • Journaling
    • Use their voice to tell their story – use their vernacular.
  • Find out what they’ve done, why they did it, how they feel about it, keep searching until you’ve found out interesting details – write scenes from other character’s POV
  • If it’s a series, do an update between books
  • Where to get your ideas
    • Observe strangers – listen to dialogue, how do they interact?
    • People you know – you can use things that you overhear in the story
    • Yourself – things you’ve experienced, things you’ve done, etc
    • Compare things you would do to the character’s choices to help you understand it better
    • Role character will play
      • Who must be there
        • Family, coworkers, neighbors, friends
  • Who might be there
    • People on the street, places they’d go
  • Who has been there
    • Important people from their past who impacted the character
    • Twist it up
      • Always consider other ways to mix it up – combine two unlikely to make a new one up (Firefly – space cowboys). Look for things that don’t fit the stereotype
      • Never stop asking “what if” and don’t give up asking more possibilities until you have something interesting. Don’t be afraid to write a scene even if you might not use it.
      • What’s in a name?
        • Pick something that goes with their character
        • Or mix it up – intentionally misname them
        • How does the character feel about their name?
        • Keep it simple for the reader – one name per person
        • Differentiating characters
          • Main characters
          • Give them power
          • Make them the focus
          • Returning appearances (Magnor tells on them!)
          • Move the plot – give them actions
          • Make the readers feel sympathy for them
          • Give them a POV
          • Raising the stakes
            • Make the character suffer
            • Make them sacrifice something
            • Put them in jeopardy – clock ticking?
            • Sexual tension
            • Their fate is linked to other people’s fate
            • Strengths and Weaknesses
              • Make strengths weaknesses and weaknesses strengths – even Harry Potter’s bravery is a weakness sometimes. Give them a reason for the bad things that they are doing 
  • Character arcs
    • Unless your character is James Bond, he or she needs to learn or grow during the course of the book. Give them something that helps them change, to become more or better or understand the world around them better than before.

 

Another great reference for characters is Tristi Pinkston’s book on Characters from her Write it Right Series. I have all four books that have come out so far and they are incredibly helpful. I’d recommend them highly.


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