Showing versus Telling & Subtlety

Sometimes being subtle is more descriptive, I’ve found.  Saying “they were brothers” is specific, but not really descriptive. What kind of relationship do they have? Are they estranged or close?

Showing

I realized that while writing about the siblings in my story. I did say outright that they were two brothers and a sister—but the important part is actually the way they treat each other.  For example, they argue a lot. Especially the older two. And yet they also have pet nicknames for each other. These two things together show both how close they are and yet also how imperfect their relationship is.

Yet it’s also totally subtle. I never pointed out either of these two things (or any of the other ways they treat each other that help suggest their relationship), but it still helps the reader figure out what the dynamics are between the characters, way better than me saying “they’re siblings” does.  Or even “the siblings were close, but they had some issues”.

Actually, this is exactly what showing instead of telling is. I am showing their relationships.

I think there actually is a place for telling, somewhat. In this particular situation, who’s to say that my “showing” won’t leave the reader just assuming they’re really good friends, rather than siblings?  I think I show their being family well enough, but that’s certainly something to consider, hence why I actually do say they are siblings.

I hesitate to let this turn into another “showing versus telling” post, because there’s already so many of them out there.  But it really clicked with me, this time, exactly what showing is.

In all the examples of showing versus telling I’ve seen in the past, it always seems to be smaller things.  Say, emotion.  Show the emotion, don’t just tell me she’s angry.  Right?  We know that.   (On the subject of showing emotions, the Emotion Thesaurus is awesome for helping with that.)

But showing is so much deeper than that.  In fact, it occurred to me, you can show while telling.  Take, for example, a description of a room.  If you describe the room, you’re probably telling.  But while you’re telling me what the room looks like, you can pick your words so that at the same time, you’re showing what the narrator thinks/feels about the room.

Another thing is character arcs.  Or character personalities.  Do we tell our readers upfront that this character is saucy?  Well, maybe, but then what do we do?  Show their sauciness.  And then as the story progresses, again, we show the character development.  What good would development be if it was all told?

Once upon a time, Selena was a spoiled child who had no idea what privileges she had.  Then her father declared bankruptcy and she lost everything.  She got a taste for what life is like at the poverty level, and she found humility.

THE END.

That really isn’t how we develop characters.  Or introduce characters.  Or introduce events.  Or…really any of that.  I’m pretty sure even the “the end” is telling.  (You know, usually we show readers they reached the end by having a back cover after the last page.)

Or world-building!  Isn’t that all showing, as well?  (Of course, there is the occasional world-building info-dump because I think it’s impossible to avoid info-dumps 100%, but still, that isn’t how all of it’s shown.  Or even most.)

Showing goes way deeper than just a simple “her cheeks turned pink and she looked at the ground” instead of “she was ashamed”.  And I think the best showing is so subtle, you don’t necessarily know you’re being shown.

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The Character I Wish Existed in More Fiction

There’s this huge push for diversity lately, especially in characters.  More this, more that!  I like some of the changes that I’m seeing, but there’s one character I don’t see often and I wish I did.

The introvert.

Introvert

The biggest problem with introverted characters is that there are attempts to write them.  I’ve read about plenty of characters who are shy or antisocial/asocial or socially-awkward.  There are definitely wallflowers in fiction.

But being a wallflower isn’t what being an introvert is.

Part of the problem, I think, is that a lot of people don’t actually understand what introverts are.  I’ve heard people describe introverts as being those shy or wallflower people.  Someone else I knew thought that it had to do with how well someone could communicate.  Someone else I know thinks of introvertedness as a character flaw that needs to be overcome.

The thing is, being a wallflower or being shy are sometimes effects of being an introvert.  But it isn’t the root of it.

I’m an introvert, and for me, being an introvert isn’t just how I communicate or how I make friends.  It’s true—I hate crowds.  If I enter a room with a lot of people, I tend to stay near the edge of the room.  Usually by a wall.  I’m shy when I meet new people, and sometimes, I have a hard time initiating a conversation with somebody I’m not real familiar with.

But that isn’t what being an introvert is about.

I like being alone, sometimes.  But I hate being lonely.  I have friends, and I need my friends.  Without them, I’d go crazy.  I might have more fictional characters in my head than real friends, but what friends I do have that are real are really close friends.

Sometimes, being an introvert means I will pick one really close friend over a group of people qualifying as “I…think we might be friends?  Maybe?”.  I prefer deep conversations over light and fluffy useless ones.  (That’s not to say I can’t talk about the weather.  In fact, I like to compare the weather from where I live to the weather where some of my non-local friends live.)

Sometimes, being an introvert means breaks from routine are tiring.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to have something a little different happen.  I can go stir-crazy as easy as anybody else.  But if something goes differently one day, then it needs to be normal the next day so I can recover.  I think this goes for most people, actually, but as an introvert, my “downtime” is really important.  I went to a birthday party this afternoon?  Okay, I’ll probably spend the evening holed up in my room with my headphones.  I went on vacation for two weeks?  Great, it was awesome, and now the next week is probably going to be spent mostly at home.  Without the downtime, I get more easily overwhelmed and my stress level rises.

I gravitate towards the walls in a room, but sometimes it’s just so I can see everything going on.  I’m shy at first, but if I warm up to somebody, I can talk until they’re sick of me.  I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are important.  I need my routines, and I love breaks from them, but then I need the routines again.

To bring this back around to characters, I think the thing is, there are introverted characters.  But they only just scratch the surface.  They only have a few of the stereotypical “features” of an introvert.  Or, even worse, they’re viewed as having a character flaw and it has to be overcome.

“Oh, don’t worry, by the end of this story, you’re going to be the biggest social butterfly in existence.

Being an introvert isn’t just being shy.  It isn’t a character flaw.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  It’s the way I think.  It’s the way I interact.  Being an introvert can introduce flaws or be coupled with them—like being too shy to make friends—but it isn’t the flaw itself.

I wish there were more truly introverted characters, instead of just shy or asocial ones.

A Scribbled Draft: Character Creation

I started a new project, Sleeping in Cyberspace, and this is the only first draft I’ve attempted to really write in about a year.  I’ve learned so much about my writing style since then, this draft is both trying new things and exploring old things.  Since it’s guaranteed to be a whole new learning experience, I’m going to blog through every step of it.


My general rule with characters is that when they start talking back at me and taking things in their own direction, they’re developed pretty well.  Of course, getting them to that point is a different adventure for each individual character.

About a year or so ago, I wrote up what I thought was a pretty spiffy and cool character sheet.  Was it?  Eh.  Not really.  It had some things in there I liked, and some things I didn’t.

Most importantly, though?

I never once filled it out fully for a single character.  Not even once. Sometimes I got kind of close, but only when I was trying to find ways to procrastinate from doing actual productive writing.  What’s the point in having a character sheet specifically for me, if I never actually used it?

Kind of like with my writing, I think I’ve realized I like to know enough to know where I’m going and what I’m dealing with, and then I’ll discover the nitty gritty details as I’m writing it.  So eventually, I came up with this.

NAME:

NICKNAME:

APPEARANCE:

~ basics (gender, age, ethnicity, identifying features, color, approximate height, weight, and build)

~ lifestyle (and how it affects appearance)

~ faults

~ clothes

~ body language

PERSONALITY:

~ fear

~ secret

~ flaw

~ quirk

ARC:

~ trigger

~ false belief

BACKSTORY:

OTHER:

(The personality part references another post that I don’t have the link to at the moment, about how the four foundations of a character are fear(s), secret(s), flaw(s), and quirk(s).  I think it’s kind of self-explanatory.  Everybody’s afraid of something, everybody has a secret (even if it’s a minor one), everybody has a flaw (basic rule in creating cool characters?  Flaws.  Always.), and…quirks.  Well, I think everybody has quirks, too, considering I haven’t met anybody without one.  Quirks are usually just little odd things about a person that make them interesting.  It can be a physical thing, a perspective thing, a personality thing, whatever you want.
The ARC portion of this is in reference to the Character Evolution Files, which I linked to in this post, so I won’t link to it again.)

Name, appearance, basic personality traits.  This is far from in-depth.  It’s pretty simple, I’d think, actually.  But what it does is, it helps you find the “essence” of a character.

For me, the essence is the important part.  Not the details.   I can have all the details I want, but if I don’t have the essence figured out, the character falls so, so flat.  Not only that, but it’s hard to figure out the details without that.

It’s hard to explain what exactly the essence is, because it’s not specific details.  I find the essence of my characters in different ways.  In my current WIP, one of my protagonists, Ceveth, showed me his essence when I realized how his older siblings treated him and how he felt about it.  In another project, I found a character’s essence when she told me, very determinedly, that her name was Sidney and she didn’t care if I liked the name or not because that was very definitely her name.

I think what it is is the general feel of the character.  It’s not specifics, it’s not details, it’s not even necessarily vivid.  It’s vague, and I have to really search for it, and sometimes, I don’t even understand it.  A few times, I don’t even know that I have it.  But once I do, I hold on tightly to it, and then I start to learn the other things about them that I don’t know yet, and I cement it into place, until I have a character who fully comes to life.

Each character reveals his or her essence at different times for me.  So sometimes, it takes a while to find it, so I fill out the parts of the character sheet above, until I strike on something.  Sometimes, they give it to me instantly, and then I use it to fill in the information above.  (It sounds like this weird balance, doesn’t it?  I use the sheet to get to know them, but I know them to fill out the sheet.  And yet it works.)

It sort of becomes this equation.

essence of the character

+

basic details to begin to cement who they are

+

a little exploration of them through actual writing

+

that moment when they start taking the story a slightly different path than I wanted/expected and I realize that they’re in control

= a developed character

Thankfully, I’m not half-bad at math.

How about the rest of you?  How do you develop your characters?  How do you tell when you’ve done enough developing?

New Project: The Prewriting

In June of 2014 (or maybe it was July, I don’t really remember), I had decided to start planning my novel for NaNoWriMo ’14, and so I gathered up a plot bunny I’d had a while back, combined it with a different idea, and started developing it.  When NaNo came around, I had semi-developed characters, the vaguest hint of a world, a bit of a beginning, and zero plot.  When November ended, I had 100k of flat characters, broken plot, and non-existent world building.

It was awesome.  Staring 2015, I started editing.  And world building.  And…more world building.  And…oh yeah, I did world building, did I mention that part yet?  Plus some world building.  And then when I thought maybe I’d done enough of world building, I edited some more.

I finished draft two on Halloween.  Then for NaNoWriMo ’15, I wrote assorted scenes for the sequels.  By the time this November ended, I decided I was sick of this world, this story, these characters.

Don’t get me wrong.  I adore them.  I love working with these ones, and even though draft three is going to be a huge, time-consuming process that will probably take almost as long as draft two did (which was ten months, roughly…maybe nine, because I don’t remember if I started in January or February), I am so looking forward to it.

But first, I really would like to explore a different story.  Something totally new, totally different, totally unrelated.

And that’s what I’m doing now!

I mentioned in a previous post that this story is basically sci-fi Sleeping Beauty meets a heist.  It’s going to be awesome.  (It had better be, anyway.)

I discovered recently that I’m actually more of an outliner than a discovery writer, so the first step was to, well, plan.

This is how I planned.

IMG_1171

That is my bedroom wall.

The bottom right corner is a timeline.  The story is set in America at 2137AD, so I wanted to figure out some of the important things that happened between now and then.  Like world war three.  It’s not very detailed, and I probably don’t have as much information as I could have, but it works for now.

The other white papers were originally a to-do list for what I needed for world building and stuff.  On the left is world building, and the purple sticky notes taped there are related to world building.  I assigned each sticky note to a particular part of it.  (I tried to write small, and I didn’t get very detailed, so yeah, only one sticky note for each thing.)  In the middle is character related stuffs.  Personality, backstories, and other stuff.  (Strangely enough, I never actually figured out what my characters look like.)  The right ones are just random things I wanted to make sure I figured out.

Below that is my outline.  At the bottom of the white pieces of paper, I noted parts of the Three Act Structure, and then way below that, the salmon-pink pieces of paper are character arc events relating to the three act structure that I recently learned about in this cool post.  In between those, the purple sticky notes are events relating to the plot, while the other colors are each associated with a character, and so the events written on those are related to that particular character.

I don’t know if any of that makes any sense to anybody besides myself, but that’s what I have.  I considered a few months ago trying to get Aeon Timeline because it sounds awesome and it syncs with Scrivener, but then there was just too much to put in when I messed with the trial.  I think I like this, though.  Sticky notes on my wall.

The only downfall is I think I’m going to run out of sticky notes.

That’s basically the extent of my prewriting.  I rambled a bunch at my other writing friends, especially about the worldbuilding, but then as soon as I figured it out, I wrote a condensed, focused version on a sticky note and taped it to the wall.

Also, fun fact: sticky notes don’t seem to stick to the wall very well.  So I had to use my masking tape.

So that’s what I’ve got.  How do the rest of you prefer to keep track of your prewriting and notes?

Looking Back at August: By Far The Longest Month of the Year

So.  August is finally over!  I swear, August was like the longest month ever.  I am so sick of it now.

August was pretty crazy.  Obviously, there’s school starting up, and that was exciting.  Not.  Actually, kind of scary, since I’m experiencing things I’ve never experienced before.  Fun.

August was also hot.  We had a mild (ish) July weather, so August decided to be as miserable as ever.

August also had lots of fun medical stuff.  My sister got sick with something similar to strep throat.  And I have suffered from headaches for a week and a half with no sign of ceasing.  (And it turns out, I might be following in several family members’ footsteps and have migraines.  Or maybe it’s just cluster headaches.  We dunno really.) I also had fun with a CT scan and four MRI scans! Yeah.  (The short version of that story was that the doctor decided she wanted to look into a minor abnormality I have, and see if there’s something medically wrong causing it, or if it’s just…a thing I have.  The results came back today as being perfectly fine and I don’t have a secret tumor or something growing in my head or anything.  I am perfectly healthy.  Aside from some allergies and these blasted headaches.)

But I doubt any of you care about all of that! How about the writing?

Writing.  Well, I’m right on with my goal.  I have less than 40k left to edit.  20k for September and 20k for October, and then I should be finished just in time for Halloween and NaNoWriMo.

When I first started editing, I wrote an outline to follow.  It was a fairly simple outline, only having the chapters and vague scenes that needed to happen for the plot to progress.

That way there was plenty of leeway.

So of course, my characters have decided to be a little rebellious.  I keep having scenes pop up that definitively aren’t part of the outline, and things happen, and oh gosh the emotions.  One character in particular keeps having horribly emotional scenes and it’s so darn sad.  But really, I think the novel is coming out better for these little unpredicted moments.

Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly.  Or, well, as smoothly as a second draft can be—’cause believe me, this is loads better than draft one, but still not half as good as published works.

All These Voices In My Head Sound Like Me

I’ve always thought that dialogue was my strong suit with writing.  I don’t really know if that’s the case, because I’ve never had anybody tell me that, but when I wrote dialogue, I felt confident about it.  Meanwhile, even still, if I have to describe something, usually I start scowling and write something really bare-bones that I’ll need to add to later because I want to just get past the description and move on already.

Why is it I felt confident with dialogue?

Part of it is that I would sometimes listen to people talking, and I’d take note of it.  I’m not really sure if anybody notices this, but I picked up on that everybody has a different way of speaking.  Sometimes it’s obvious things like—when this person talks, she moves her hands and gestures with everything.  But there’s also smaller differences, in the way they word sentences.  Because there are so many different ways you can say the same thing, and different ways will give it different meaning and different personality.

When I noticed this, I noticed that all of my characters said things the same way—the way I spoke.  They worded things the exact same way I would word it.  And in some ways, I don’t think this was truly a big problem, because they are my characters, but it makes it hard to make them unique.

Because, see.  I think the general rule with dialogue is that if you can get away with no dialogue tag, you don’t use a dialogue tag.  And the way you do that is to make it really obvious who’s talking by what they’re saying.  And if all of the characters sound the same, how can you do this?

You make them sound different.

So I started listening to the different ways people worded things and tried to pick up on it, and make my characters’ voices sound more unique.  To this day, I honestly don’t really know how well I did, but it was an important thing to do, listening to people talk, I think.  And it gave me an interesting skill, too.  I’m pretty good at telling when a character—or a even a real person—doesn’t sound like themselves.

Making characters sound different doesn’t have to be real drastic.  This doesn’t mean dropping all contractions for a regal character, or adding an accent that makes the words unpronounceable, or using “thee” and “thou”.  Not that you can’t do those things, but you don’t use that to make them sound unique.  (I do have a character that doesn’t use any contractions.  It sounds really awkward and stilted, so I wouldn’t recommend it.  But she’s a computer, so I can get away with it, I think.)

Instead, you do it in small ways.  This is like the difference between saying “How are you?” and “What’s up?”  Or when someone calls your name, I’ve heard people respond with “What?” and some respond with “Yeah?” Or even “Huh?”  Or the difference between saying the full “I don’t know” versus “I dunno”.

On the opposite note, as important as it is to make characters have unique voices, it’s also important, I think, to make sure that the characters still all sound like they belong to the same world and that they all fit with your writing style.  I’ve honestly never had a character say “What’s up?” because I never say that.  The phrase never honestly actually crosses my mind.  (Probably doesn’t help that my favorite way to respond to that question is to just smartly report whatever happens to be above my head at the time.  Nobody’s asked me what’s up in a long time, hehe…)

And also.  People tend to talk like whoever they hang around with the most.  So many times I’ve said something, and then thought that I sounded like a friend of mine or even one of my siblings.  It happens.  So remember that with characters.

So to conclude this post, here’s a random dialogue prompt that…sort of relates to this topic.

See, it relates!  Because manners can affect how somebody speaks, right?

Beautiful People: “A Circle is Round, It Has No End…”

If you have that song stuck in your head now… I profusely apologize.  That song drove me nuts.  Ugh.

So this month for Beautiful People, we have a friendship theme.  (Now do you have the song stuck in your head?)  I’m going to pick out three of my characters that are supposedly good friends with each other.  So…introducing Ereinne, Iaelie, and Datael.

Ahem.  Sit down, all three of you, and—are you arguing?  Stop arguing, this is supposed to be about friendship.  Really?  You’re going to glare at me?

Just sit down already and let me ask the questions.

Ahem.  How long have you known each other, and how close are you?

Iaelie: *mutters* As if you don’t already know this.  *sighs*  I met Datael when we were trying to get through Initiation, and we both met Ereinne about a year later when I was assigned to her.

Ereinne: I think we’re pretty close.  Just…not as close as we used to be.

Datael: To be completely honest, I don’t think we’re really that close anymore.  There’s sort of just this…echo of friendship, and a want to have it back.

Ereinne: And that’s because Iaelie’s pushed us both away. *looks pointedly at Iaelie*

Iaelie: *ignores*

What’s your earliest memory of being best friends?

Ereinne: I think…well, as soon as Iaelie was assigned to me, I met Datael, because those two were practically sewn together at the hip.  But as far back as I can remember, when we were all friends together… maybe that time Iaelie and Datael and I were making up crazy stories to make each other laugh.

Datael: Initiation, definitely.  There was this maze that we were all supposed to get through, and most of the other initiates were trying to do it by themselves, but Iaelie and I decided to work together.  At one point, we were both laughing, and I don’t even remember why we were laughing, but even though we’d only known each other…what, a day?…I really felt like we were friends.

Iaelie: Yeah.

Do you fight? (I don’t even know why I’m asking this question.) How long do you typically fight for?

Ereinne: Iaelie fights with everybody.

Iaelie: I do not!

Ereinne: Yeah you do. I’ll bet you even fight with yourself.

Iaelie: *glares and doesn’t really deny it*

Datael: Lately, we fight every time we see each other. Iaelie and I, I mean.  I say something that’s too nice or something to her, and she gets mad at me for saying something untrue.

Iaelie: That’s an exaggeration, Datael.  I don’t—

Datael: *sigh* You do.

Ereinne: I think Iaelie’s been really grumpy for some reason lately.  She’s been…weird.  We argue a lot lately, too, and sometimes it’s about menial things, and sometimes it’d just me being…too naïve.

Datael: I don’t think Ereinne and I fight much, though.

Ereinne: Not really.

Are your personalities similar or do you complement each other?

Iaelie: We’re pretty different.

Ereinne: Yeah.  I’m fun, and Iaelie’s grumpy, and Datael is—

Iaelie: *elbows her in the ribs*

Ereinne: What? You know you are!

Datael: What am I?

Ereinne: You are very… what’s the word.  You laugh a lot.  Something Iaelie needs to pick up on.

Datael: Yes, that she does…

Iaelie: I laugh plenty.

Datael: No you don’t.  The last time I remember you laughing was… Ereinne, when was the last time she laughed?

Ereinne: I can’t really remember.

Datael: Exactly.  Me neither.  Do you remember the last time you laughed, Iaelie?

Iaelie: *glares*

Who is the leader of your friendship (if anyone)?

Ereinne: Nobody?

Do you have any secrets from each other?

Datael: Not really.  There are things we don’t talk about— *gives Iaelie a pointed look* —but I don’t have any secrets.

Iaelie: Yes.  I can’t tell Ereinne about Guardian things.  Whether I want to or not.

Datael: Yeah, there’s the normal Guardian things, too, I suppose.  But Iaelie knows as much about those as I do, and I guess I’m not that close to Ereinne that they really feel like big secrets.

Ereinne: I—I have my secrets, too.

Iaelie: You’re not allowed to have secrets, Ereinne.  I’m your Guardian.

Ereinne: Oh, don’t pull that on me again—

Datael: Girls, please, let’s put off the arguing until after the interview, okay?

How well do they know each other’s quirks and habits?

Ereinne: Considering Iaelie and I see each other literally every day, I’d say we know the quirks and habits pretty well.

Datael: I used to know Iaelie’s pretty well.  She always pulls her right boot on her feet before she puts the left one on. Always.  I don’t know why.

Iaelie: I do?

Datael: You’ve done that for years.

Ereinne: You know what, now that you mention it, I’m pretty sure you do, Iaelie.

Datael: Yeah.  That said, I don’t know that I know her quirks that well anymore, though I’d like to get to know them.

What kind of things do you like to do together?

Ereinne: You mean, what kinds of things did we used to do together?  *gives Iaelie a look*

Iaelie: Why is everything all of a sudden my fault?  I’m not the only reason that we don’t do any of that stuff anymore!

Ereinne: Then what other reasons are there?

Iaelie: I—

Datael: I hate to say it, Iaelie, but every time we try to make plans, whether it’s all three of us, or just you and me, you always cancel or find a way out of it.  We never do anything anymore.

Iaelie: When it’s you and me, Datael, that’s—that’s different.

Datael: *sighs wistfully*  Yeah, I know, you’ve said that before.

Ereinne: Aaanyway, what we used to do together… well, I’m restricted to the castle, so it’d be pretty boring things.  When we were littler, we’d sometimes tell stories or play make believe or something, but as we grew up, we’d still tell stories, or we’d go hang out in the courtyards in the shade, and stuff like that.

Datael: And when Iaelie actually let me take her out of the castle, and to one of the cities, we’d pretend we were tourists and go do the most fun things we could think of.  One time, we went to the greenhouses and were goggling over this really funny looking horned plant, and I tripped and my face sort of landed on the thorny plant… *coughs* And another time, she decided she wanted to buy herself a dress, and so we spent like two of the longest hours of my entire life trying to find her a dress, and she finally settled on one, and then promptly fell into the river, and…

Iaelie: And I liked that dress.

Datael: Why is it they all ended in disaster?

Describe your fashion style. How are your styles different/similar?

Ereinne: Iaelie and Datael wear the same things—the Guardians’ uniform, of sorts—but Datael makes it look comfortable, and Iaelie makes it look formal.  I just wear dresses.

Datael: Yeah, if you’re a Guardian, there really isn’t much option of fashion.  You wear the uniform if you’re on-duty, and if you’re off-duty…well, unless you leave the castle, you still really just wear the uniform anyway.

Ereinne: I like the dresses that have really big, impractical skirts that look as if you could never fit through a doorway because there’s so many layers and layers and layers of skirt.  I’ve never actually worn one of those dresses, but I’d love it if I could.  Usually what I wear is just a dress with only one or two layers, maybe three, and I love to wear blue or green.  Or yellow.  Or orange.  Or pink.  Actually, pretty much any color.

Iaelie: What Datael said.  The only way you can vary it up is what you do with your hair, basically.  I used to braid my hair on either side of my head, and sometimes I’d put flowers in my hair.

Datael: You looked nice with the flowers.

Iaelie: Datael—

Datael: What?  It’s true.

How would your lives be different without each other?

Ereinne: Well, I’d have a different Guardian, and probably one I would like less and trust less.  I wouldn’t want to imagine a world where Iaelie wasn’t my Guardian—even if she is a huge pain.

Iaelie: …

Datael: Well, mine would be a lot more lonely.  And quiet.  And…maybe less happy.

Ereinne: You mean Iaelie actually still makes you happy with all of her grumpiness?

Iaelie: *glares* I’m not always grumpy.

Datael: *looks at her fondly* Yeah, she does still make me happy.  When she’s not yelling at me.  Also, my nose might not be so crooked if I hadn’t known Iaelie.

Ereinne: Why’s that?

Iaelie: *looks away, blushing*  I broke his nose.

Datael: *grinning* I was flirting with her, and she got fed up with it, so she punched me in the face and broke my nose.

Iaelie: I didn’t really mean to break your nose!  I just wanted you to stop!

Datael: It did get me to stop.

Ereinne: *gasps* Iaelie was the one who broke your nose?  I thought it was from some Guardian training accident or something!

Iaelie: *changes the subject*  If I didn’t have Ereinne and Datael in my life, I’d probably be a lot more peaceful, a lot less grumpy, and also a lot less happy.  *glares at them*  And don’t any of you say I’m not happy, because I can be happy.  I’m just…going through hard times right now, okay?

Datael: That’s okay with me, so long as you eventually get past those hard times.  Also, it would also be nice if you let either of us help you.  We’re here for you, you know, Iaelie.

Iaelie: *sigh*

That was…really long.  Whoa, these ones like to talk, heheh.  But it was fun.  At least for me, anyway.

A Character Interview (Beautiful People)

I love character interactions. Seeing the way this character reacts to this other character—it’s so much fun.  I also love character interviews. It’s fun to ask the characters questions and try to make them give honest answers.

What’s especially fun is character interviews with multiple characters, because I get to ask questions and watch the characters react to each other’s answers.

So this month, I decided to participate in Beautiful People with…five of my characters from my current novel, Oracular.

”PAPERFURY”

This months theme is on parents. So, I introduce Ereinne (air-EEN), Iaelie (eye-AY-lee), Tiri (TEAR-ee), Kalvias (KAL-vee-ahs), and Cimizelle (sim-ih-zel).

(Fun fact: Ereinne shouldn’t be part of this interview, because she doesn’t have any parents, but she somehow snuck herself in anyway. Characters.)

So.  Without further ado…

Do you know both your biological parents? Why/why not?

Tiri: Father, yes. My mother died when I was young.

Ereinne: No, because my parents have been dead for centuries, but I have Iaelie and Ennalie. They are my Guardians after all. Even if they’re younger than me.

Iaelie: I’m not your parental guardian, Ereinne.

Ereinne: But you’re still my Guardian!

Iaelie: …I’m basically your bodyguard. You realize that, right?

Ereinne: Whatever. Are you going to answer the question?

Iaelie: Yes, I know my parents.

Kalvias: Yes.

Cimizelle: Uh-huh.

Have you inherited any physical resemblances from your parents?

Ereinne: Considering I’m not related to Iaelie and Ennalie, no. In fact, we probably look as different as we could possibly look.  You know, what with my dark curly hair and Iaelie’s long, straight, blonde hair, and—

Iaelie: *clears throat* I have my father’s height, and some of his face, but my mother’s hair.

Tiri: Some of my father’s figure. I definitely have his hands. I don’t really know what my mother looked like, though.

Cimizelle: Ha, no! Okay, maybe I have my mom’s hair, but I’m so tiny and my blue eyes… they make it hard to see the resemblance.

Kalvias: I see the resemblance, Cim.

Cimizelle: Really?

Kalvias: Absolutely. I’ve never really paid a lot of attention to how much I look like my parents, but I have been told it’s obvious who’s kid I am.  So I guess I do look like them.

What’s your parental figure(s) dress style? Add pictures if you like!

Ereinne: Iaelie doesn’t have much of a choice in clothing, but I doubt she’d dress interestingly if she did. So she just wears what all the Guardians wear.

Iaelie: I haven’t seen my parents in years. I’ve no idea.  I never paid attention to that as a child.

Tiri: Something practical and comfortable. And it was almost always a little bit dusty.

Cimizelle: If it’s fancy and of the latest fashion, they wear it.

Kalvias: Same with my parents.

Do you share any personality traits with your parental figures? And which do you take after most?

Ereinne: Nope! I would know if I was as stiff and boring as Iaelie.

Iaelie: *glares*

Ereinne: What? You know you’re boring. Actually, I think I might have some things in common with Ennalie. She’s definitely not as bouncy as me, but she can be excitable.

Iaelie: I hope I haven’t picked up on any of the family traits. *shudders*

Cimizelle: I hardly know my parents, so I’ve no idea.

Kalvias: I’m pretty sure you get your glare from your mother, Cim.

Cimizelle: *frowns*

Kalvias: I can’t deny I don’t have some of my parents’ knack for being sneaky.

Tiri: I’m a lot like my father. I spent more time around him than around anyone else, though, so it’s not a surprise.

Do you get on with their parental figure(s) or do you clash?

Ereinne: Um. I suppose we mostly get along, but I can’t deny that Iaelie gets on my nerves sometimes.

Iaelie: Same to you, Ereinne. As for my parents… we didn’t get along, but it was usually distanced so there were no clashes, per se. I usually tried to hide into the background.

Tiri: I loved my father. We had our fights, but we got along.

Kalvias: Honestly, I don’t see my parents much. There’s never really an opportunity to fight.

Cimizelle: Hey, you see your parents more than I see mine. Mine come to visit me one every other day or so, and usually not for long.

Kalvias: Cim, usually I only see my parents at dinner, and that’s across the table where I can’t even talk to them. They’re too busy talking political stuff with your parents.

Cimizelle: But that’s every day.

If you had to describe your parental figure(s) in one word, what would it be?

Ereinne: Iaelie, I’d say stiff. Ennalie, I think I’d say young? She’s sweet and everything, but definitely young.

Iaelie: Distant.

Tiri: *eyes pool up with tears* Dead.

Ereinne: *hugs Tiri*

Tiri: *takes really deep breath*  Loving.

Kalvias: Um.

Cimizelle: Royalty.

Kalvias: I don’t think that really answers the question, Cim.

Cimizelle: Sure it does. They are royalty, and it explains why they have no time for me.

Kalvias: I suppose so.  Mine are… busy, I guess?  That really doesn’t explain them, either, but that’s all I really know about them.

How has your parental figure(s) helped you most in their life?

Ereinne: Iaelie and Ennalie protect my life. I’m not sure what from, since I can’t leave the castle, but their job is to look after me.

Iaelie: …they gave birth to me.

Ereinne: They also raised you.

Iaelie: That wasn’t how they helped me.

Tiri: He was there for me, always. And he loved me.

Cimizelle: I fail to see how to answer this question, seeing as how they locked me in a tower!

Kalvias: They gave me an education and then didn’t pay enough attention to me and let me do my own things.

Cimizelle: How is that helping you?

Kalvias: *grins mischievously* I almost never got in trouble.

Cimizelle: *frowns* So no wonder you’re such a huge pain.

Kalvias: *glares* Hey, if they had kept a closer eye on me, you and I would never have met.

Cimizelle: True.

What was your biggest fight with your parental figure(s)?

Ereinne: That would be when I told Iaelie that she needed to work things out with her almost-boyfriend because it’s obvious the two really like each other, but every time he tries to make something happen, she pushes him away!

Iaelie: He’s not—! Ereinne!

Ereinne: He’s not your boyfriend? I know, that’s the point!

Iaelie: *glares*

Tiri: I don’t really remember.

Kalvias: Me neither, honestly.

Cimizelle: One of the times my parents came up to check that nobody was in my tower with me. I know they have reason to suspect someone was visiting me who shouldn’t have been, because Kalvias was sneaking up here, but it’s still annoying.

Iaelie: Biggest fight. I don’t know. I had bigger fights with my older siblings.

Tracing back the family tree, what nationalities are in your ancestry?

Ereinne: Considering I’m an Oracle, I both have no idea, and I’m not sure it really matters…? I mean, especially since, I was born before the war and the Transition and all that.

Iaelie: Keilorian, mostly.

Kalvias: There may have been a tad bit of Akelyan wwwaaaayyyyyy back, but that was before the war.

Cimizelle: I’ve no idea. I’m not sure I even know my grandparents’ names.

Kalvias: That would be Queen Maelira and King Relmir I.

Cimizelle: Right.  Hey, don’t look at me like that.  It’s not my fault my parents wouldn’t even get me a tutor!  *huffs*  Teaching yourself to read is a lot harder than it sounds.

Tiri: Mostly Keilorian, but there’s a little Inizaelan, too.

What’s your favourite memory with your parental figure(s)?

Tiri: *takes a deep breath*  The first time he showed me how to shape clay. I still have that…blob. I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to be anymore, but it’s definitely not functional.

Ereinne: Um, let me think. *feigns deep thought*

Iaelie: *glares at Ereinne* The time my mother brought me to buy a new dress for me to wear to Initiation. I still wish I hadn’t worn a dress to that, but the afternoon we bought it was fun, and I enjoyed the time with my mother where there were no other siblings around.

Cimizelle: One of my birthdays. My eleventh? My parents got me a dozen books, which is more than they’d ever gotten me, and I was so happy.

Kalvias: Nothing comes to mind, honestly. Maybe right after my baby sister was born, and we were all together as a happy family.

Cimizelle: You had a baby sister?

Kalvias: Yeah. She died before she was a year old, though.

Cimizelle: Awww, Kalvias… why did you never tell me that?

Kalvias: It’s a painful memory.

Ereinne: Aha! I got it! So, about six months after Iaelie was assigned to me. She was eleven years old, and so she looked the same age as me, even if I was actually six hundred seven. Anyway, Iaelie invited her best friend Datael over to my room, and the three of us played make-believe. Of course, we were breaking the rules, because as Guardians, both Iaelie and Datael weren’t supposed to play silly games like that with their Oracles, but we had so much fun and Iaelie was so happy.

Iaelie: I kind of remember that… we were in trouble for the next month after that.

That was fun, and way more civilized than I expected.  I actually learned a few things, too, that I didn’t know.  Kalvias, I’m pretty sure I have a right to know that you had a baby sister.

The Right Perspective, Part One: Vanishing Points and PoV

Picking the right character to do something or show something is important, more important than I think we realize.  How do you know who’s the right person to narrate?  Should it be the protagonist?  Should it be written in first person or third person?  Should it be limited or omniscient?  How many narrators should there be?

Is there a right way to narrate?

I don’t think there’s “one” right way.  But there are wrong ways—and what those are depend on the story.

In the art world, there’s this fancy-sounding term that called “the vanishing point”. The vanishing point is where the lines of perspective meet up.  It looks like, as things get further away, they grow smaller and smaller until they become a single point.  I’m not sure how often vanishing points are actually visible, but in theory, they’re all over the place.   For example, if you stand in the middle of the street and look down at one end or another, the houses and the street seem to get smaller and smaller.  Now, unless that street is really long, and there are absolutely no bumps/hills, the vanishing point isn’t actually visible—but in theory, it should be there.

The purple lines follow the lines of perspective, and all meet down at the vanishing point. Not the neatest image, but it gets the point across. (Haha, get it? Point?)

Are the houses and stuff actually getting smaller?  Of course not.  If you walked down the street, those other houses on the end would actually be house-sized once you stood in front of them.  They only seem to be smaller.  That’s perspective.

VP0
This is the exact same image as before, but with no vanishing point and no perspective. See how different the two are?

Vanishing points aren’t strictly necessary, technically, but they add depth and a different perspective to the same image.  In fact, in the image that has no vanishing point, you can see a lot less things, and it all seems way more flat.  Of course, there can be more than just one vanishing point, and that changes it up even more.

This is a little bit sloppy, but if you follow the purple lines, they eventually lead to not one, but three vanishing points—one to the left, to the right, and up above.

Now, all of this was mostly to illustrate how perspective can drastically change the same thing.  (Let’s excuse the fact that the third image was of different buildings than the first two, because I think the idea is clear enough anyway.)  How does this apply to writing?

In writing, perspective usually refers to point of view—the PoV character, or the narrator.  And PoV is very important to perspective.  First person narration, someone described to me once, is being inside the character’s head.  We see what they see, hear what they hear and what they think, feel what they feel.  In a way, we almost become them, at least so long as we’re in their story.  Third person, meanwhile, is more like becoming friends with the character (unless, of course, the author wanted us to dislike them, but that’s irrelevant).  The difference between first person and third person is like the difference between being the character and being friends with the character.

You see how that affects perspective?

Now let’s talk about first-impressions for a moment.  First impressions are important with people.  How likely is it that that person will talk to you again, when the first-impression you made is that you’re a total dork?  Well, unless they like dorks, your chances are probably pretty slim of making friends with them.  In writing, first impressions are not much different.  It’ll shape the reader’s view of a character.   Of course, there’s a lot more to it than just that, and first impressions can be completely and utterly wrong.

But they still affect it, do they not?

So let’s say, you have a first person narrator.  She’s had a rough life, and as a result, she tends to not trust people.  When she meets this random new character, what is she probably going to think of him?  She probably will automatically not trust him.  He may do something to further that mistrust, or maybe it’s all in the narrator’s head.

What’s the first impression?  Assuming the first-person is written well enough that the reader is actually invested in the story, and that the reader thinks the narrator is reliable (I’ll get to that topic in another post), the reader’s first impression of this character is that he’s going to be untrustworthy.  Why?  Because that’s what the narrator thinks.

What does this mean?  Well, let’s take a look at who this new character is.  Let’s say… let’s say he isn’t trustworthy, and later on in the story, he’s going to betray the main character.  But let’s also say you want this betrayal to be a plot twist—and therefore to not be totally predictable.

If, from the very start, the reader suspects him, how predictable do you think this plot twist will be?

Now, what if we had a different narrator?  It’s the other character’s friend, who’s much more trusting.  When she meets this new character, she’s not immediately put off by him.  She doesn’t have to like him, necessarily, but she doesn’t distrust him.  So that means, when the reader sees the new character from her eyes, their first impression isn’t going to be as bad.

Are we going to distrust this new character as much?  Probably not, unless he does something really suspicious.

So if we want his betrayal to be more of a surprise, which narrator is probably going to help us out more?  The trusting one.  Because, to a point, the reader is going to feel what the protagonist feels, especially in first person.  Remember, first person is becoming the protagonist.  Third person is befriending the protagonist.

So if we’re being narrated by the distrustful character, her first impression, and therefore the reader’s, will be that the new character isn’t trustworthy.  The narrator’s friend might tell her that she’s being silly and he doesn’t seem untrustworthy, but that isn’t going to be enough to overpower that first impression.

If the trusting one is narrating, then that’s our first impression.  Her friend might tell her that she’s too trusting and that the new character is suspicious, but that might also not be enough to overpower the first impression.

It’s all the same information.  But how it’s portrayed—what perspective it’s shown in—will determine how the reader processes that information.  So who is picked as the narrator can be pretty important.

(Disclaimer: This is completely theoretical.  There are other factors to this whole thing, and it only really works if the reader is wholly invested in the protagonist.  If the reader just isn’t quite clicking with the character, for whatever reason, they might end up with a totally different view.  But even that you can manipulate.)

Editing and All of the Things Stopping Me from Doing It

First off.  Notice the red bar on the right side of the page.  It’s full.  It’s also not even at 30k.

That’s basically how my writing is going.  I had expected that project to be a novel, but it just wasn’t going to do that.  Not enough story or something, I’m not even sure, but it decided to be novella instead.  When I edit it later on this year, perhaps I’ll figure out how to make it novel-sized…but then again, maybe this story needs to be a smaller size.  I’m not sure yet, but it really doesn’t matter so much, actually.  I’m not disappointed.

Maybe that’s just because I’m excited that I finished another project.  After almost two years of not finishing a single thing, I’ve now finished two decent-sized projects in a little over three months.

Speaking of other finished projects.  I’ve gotten a little bit overwhelmed with all of my world building in my other novel, and I decided…that should probably be enough.  There is one thing I still need to figure out, since it’s somewhat relevant to the story, but I can work it out later.  So for now, I’m going to actually start editing.

Gosh.  At first, staring my 100k novel, I wasn’t even sure how to begin the editing process.  I mean, what should you do first?  I know from reading other writers’ experiences in editing—and from a little common sense—that I need to edit the big stuff before I worry about the little stuff.  How much sense would it make to start correcting my grammar in a scene that might not even stay in the novel?

Yeah.  So.  I figured, I’ll start with my characters.  I have five viewpoints in this novel, and I noticed they were very much out of balance.  One character was the narrator for…twenty-something chapters, while another character had only six chapters in her PoV.  That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, especially since six chapters, in this case anyway, really isn’t much room to work with for her character arc.

So, I decided to start with character arcs.  I started writing outlines for each character, but started struggling with how they weaved together.  The five characters don’t always spend the whole novel all group together, but group up and split apart several times throughout the book.  So each character’s individual story depends a lot on how the other four go, so trying to write an outline for each is…not exactly easy.

Here’s the best part, though.  I realized that I actually can’t really figure out what their character arcs are because not all of them even have goals in the first place.  Hmm.  That’s problematic.

So I guess, I get to work on character development a little bit.  Some day, I’ll actually start editing this thing.  Some day soon, I hope.