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.

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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?

Beautiful People: Sibling…sort of Rivalry

Since my WIP mostly involves two brothers and a sister, I thought I’d dig out the Beautiful People: Sibling Edition questions from a few months ago and do a character interview with the three of them.

Hopefully they’ll be more informative than the last time I tried to do the sibling questions.  I doubt they’ll be cooperative, though.

1. What is the first memory you have of each other?

Dazant: I remember Cev’s birth, more or less, although it’s hazy. Well, I mean, his infancy.  Ki, I think… I don’t know, something when we were really little.  Before the orphanage.

Kivessa: Daz and I stole some candies from one of the orphanage staff, but we got caught, and had to give the candies back.  I was so disappointed, Daz went back and got me a lollipop.

Dazant: You remember that?  You were like…four.

Ceveth: I kind of remember when we left the orphanage.  Ish.  Mostly I remember being confused and hurt that we had to leave.

Dazant: There was a reason we did that.

Ceveth: I know that, I just mean I didn’t then.  I was four?  Five?

2. Describe your relationship in 3 words.

Dazant: Um.

Ceveth: Complementary?

Kivessa: Um.

Ceveth: Nope, never mind.  Uh…

Kivessa: How about we don’t use words?  *presses her fist into her other palm threateningly and glares at the boys*

Ceveth: Hey!  What’s that for?

Kivessa: I’m just kidding.  I don’t think we can really express it in three words.  We each have our ridiculous, obnoxious quirks and flaws, but we are a team.  Although we could be better.  *glares at Dazant again*

Dazant: *ignores her*

3. What kind of things do you like to do together?

Kivessa: You mean what we already do together?  We broke into a bank once.

Dazant: You sound like it’s a fun and useless hobby, Ki.

Ceveth: *winces* It kind of is a hobby for Ki.

Dazant: *sigh*

Kivessa: So?

Dazant: You don’t even care about the morals that come with being thieves, do you?

Ceveth: *absently fiddles with his bionic ear, and the other two wince*

Dazant: Let’s go onto the next question, please?

4. What was your biggest fight?

Ceveth: You mean, what is their biggest fight?  They don’t stop fighting.

Dazant & Kivessa: *flat look*

Dazant: Actually, the fighting was really bad right after…

Kivessa: After…

Ceveth: You can just say the accident.  You two wince about it more than I do.

*silence*

5. How far would you go to save each other?

Dazant: As far as I have to.

Kivessa: *scoffs*  Like making our lives miserable and stuff.  Yeah, really trying your hardest to save us, Daz.  I appreciate it so much.

Dazant: Don’t you even—!

Ceveth: *interrupts loudly* We all have to work together to keep each other safe, and I think we’d all do whatever it takes to keep us a team.

6. What are you pet peeves about each other?

Kivessa: Everything.

Ceveth: *tries to not groan*

Dazant: *sighs*  Let’s not worry about this question so much.

7. What are your favorite things about each other?

Dazant: When Kivessa isn’t purposefully trying to get on my nerves—*glares more*—she can give some good advice, and she does know how to look after herself.  Sometimes.

Kivessa: Daz, you—*sighs*  The same, I guess.  I know he is looking out for Cev and me, even if sometimes he acts foolish.

Ceveth: Um.  *kind of hides in background*  I—I don’t really know?  I don’t think I know either of them well enough to really… *trails off*

8. What traits do you share? Mannerisms, clothing, quirks, looks, etc?

Kivessa: Clothes?  Eep, no, thank you.  Neither of them have any sense of style.  I mean, okay, they do at least wear jeans, but…they make it look sloppy.

Ceveth: *kind of speechless*

Dazant: *rolls his eyes*

Kivessa: *attempts to flip her hair stylishly but just looks kind of goofy*

Ceveth: *still speechless*

Dazant: Cev and I look a lot alike.  If I recall, we also both look a lot like our mother.

Kivessa: Your frowns are almost identical.  It’s actually kind of creepy.

Ceveth: *blinks*

9. Who has the strongest personality?

*a long silence*

Ceveth: Not me, that’s for sure.

Dazant: Ki, I guess?

10. How does your relationship change throughout your story?

Dazant: Supposedly, we’ll all grow closer and actually learn to truly complement one another.  But since we’re still in chapter two as of the writing of this post, nothing much has changed yet.


Yeah, that basically went how I expected it to.  Unfortunately, the problem with this is that all I really got was the tension between Kivessa and Dazant, and poor Ceveth is hardly even here.  I think I’ll have to get them by themselves in some more interviews.

A Scribbled Draft: The Pain-in-the-Fingers That is Chapter One

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.


The other day, I shared my first chapter, and if I’m totally honest, I’m pretty proud of that chapter, for a couple of different reasons.  Mostly, it feels like a stronger beginning than most of my beginnings do, although it probably needs work (it is a first draft after all).

I know from other things I’ve read and some Writing Excuses episodes that one of the biggest things first chapters need to do is, well, introduce the story.  Not just be a beginning (although obviously they do that, too), but let the reader know exactly what kind of story they’re reading.  What genre is the story?  What is the tone?  Is it dark?  Is it humorous?  Is it lighthearted and cheery?

It’s like a promise.  You’re promising the reader what kind of story it’ll be, based on what they read here.  If your first chapter is funny, you’re basically promising the entire story will be funny.

Another thing that first chapters should do is, well, interest the readers and make them read chapter two.

When I was writing the chapter, I knew I was writing sci-fi, and I knew the plot was a heist.  I knew that a big part of the story is the relationship between my three main characters.  I also knew that I was more or less following the three act structure, and like the first part of that is “ordinary world”.  In other words, I have to show the readers what “normal” is for them, because in the next few chapters, I’m going to totally wreck the mundane.  (Even if it’s a heist, I am following some of the Hero’s Journey structure, and so yeah, they do basically get their whole world wrecked.)

So from there, I had to figure out what I wanted to start the story with that would let the reader know all of this, right from the start.  I had the idea that the first chapter needed to be a mini-heist—hence promising more heist later on—and also starting the story off with action, thus fulfilling the “in late, out early” idea.  At the same time, it shows what’s “normal”—Ceveth knows exactly what he’s doing and never once is he uncertain about it—and yet he’s nervous about being caught by his older brother, even as his sister tries to pressure him into being faster, which introduces both the characters and the relationships they have with each other.

Keeping the right tone was fairly easily, although that’s mostly because pretty much every single piece of my writing has a similar tone.  I haven’t figured out how to explore with different tones yet.

There are a couple of things I didn’t introduce here. For example, I don’t know that anybody could guess this was a Sleeping Beauty retelling simply by the chapter alone.  And then, there are a few things, such as Izioth, that I mentioned, but didn’t describe—and other things I didn’t mention at all.  There’s another important character, but she won’t even be introduced until chapter three or four, I think.

Not everything needs to be introduced in chapter one.  Not even the inciting incident necessarily has to happen in chapter one.  (Mine happens probably in chapter four.)  Of course, ‘in late, out early’ might disagree with me, but how “late” a story is started I think depends on the individual story (and probably who’s writing it).  Although it’s certainly possible that maybe further along the lines, I’ll decide I started the story too early and I need to cut the first few chapters, right now, I don’t think I did.  I think this is where the story needed to start.  Because it introduces just enough for the reader to know what the story is about, without info dumping with too much.

I think that’s what a first chapter is all about.  Get me interested, and tell me just enough that I’m not lost and that I’ll keep reading and go to chapter two.  And be aware that chapter one sets up expectations—those are the promises—that have to be fulfilled, or else readers’ll be disappointed.

Project “Cyberspace”: Excerpt from Chapter One

As mentioned a few times in previous posts, I started a new story.  My current working title is Sleeping in Cyberspace, but I usually call it Cyberspace.  I wrote the first chapter not so long ago, and I thought I’d share it.  So ta-da!  (Critique is appreciated, but mostly I just want you to enjoy it.)

And then he was in.

Ceveth glanced up from his tablet screen, making sure that Dazant hadn’t glanced his way. To his relief, Dazant was still staring out the window, oblivious. Kivessa saw him, and waved her hand impatiently, mouthing, Get back to it before he looks over!

Forcing his attention back to the tablet screen, Ceveth swallowed down the guilt, the paranoia, and everything else that came with what he was doing. Mostly the guilt. He tried to tell himself that he’d had no choice, that Kivessa had forced him into it, but she really hadn’t. He’d been eager.

Eager to break into another person’s identity, and use their money to purchase something.

Oh, he felt so guilty. And yet, he didn’t stop.

“C’mon,” Kivessa whispered, keeping her voice just barely soft enough that Dazant wouldn’t hear it. She shot Ceveth another impatient glare.

He took another breath and ignored her. He had already broken in. That’d been the hard part–but then, this was the risky part. He reconnected his tablet to Izioth–glanced again at Dazant–received another glare from Kivessa–clicked the purchase. Instantly, the confirmation window appeared, requesting that he press his right thumb against the screen so it could scan his thumbprint and confirm his identity and his purchase. With another nervous swallow, Ceveth pulled up the program he’d written so that he could get around having to put the thumbprint in, or else it would recognize that not only was his thumbprint different than the identity he had broken into, but his thumbprint would also pull up all the records of his past. And then the purchase would be cancelled and police-droids would be surrounding the building any moment.

Dazant suddenly said, “I think we need to find a new safe-house.”

Ceveth startled, but Kivessa kept her cool. She shot one last narrow-eyed glance at Ceveth, then regarded Dazant as if nothing in the slightest bit suspicious was happening. “Why’s that?”

Ceveth fidgeted in his seat, pulling his knees up and resting his tablet against them, so if Dazant decided to glance over, he wouldn’t see the tablet. The program wasn’t as fast as Ceveth wished it was, and it would be another few moments before the purchase actually went through. Until then, he could still get caught by Dazant.

“I think we’ve pushed it too long,” Dazant said. “We need to relocate.” He did glance over then, and Ceveth had to force himself to not tense up. “You know Izioth has patrols every few months to make sure things are as it thinks they should be.”

Kivessa pursed her lips, thoughtful. She crossed her arms behind her back, where only Ceveth could see her hand making circular movements, indicating he needed to hurry up. “Where would we go, then? Somewhere further west?”

Dazant grabbed one of the chairs a little bit too close to Ceveth, but then pulled it back to the window and sat. Ceveth relaxed again.

75%, his tablet informed him.

“Actually, I was thinking we leave the city entirely.”

Ceveth and Kivessa froze simultaneously, staring at him. Then they traded glances.

“Why?” Ceveth asked, at the same time as Kivessa cried, “Daz, don’t be ridiculous! What are we going to do outside of New LA? You can’t find work out in the country!”

“And I clearly can’t find work here, either,” Dazant snapped, instantly on the defensive. Ceveth could tell he’d been thinking about the idea for a while, even if he’d only suggested it now.

83%

“But—” Kivessa started.

“No, hear me out before you start arguing!”

89%

Dazant took a deep breath, closing his eyes, gathering his words together.  Ceveth tried to pretend he wasn’t looking at his tablet anymore, and instead focusing on his older brother.  Just let it finish.  It’s eleven percent.  It’ll finish.  It’ll be fine.

Dazant still didn’t speak.  He ran his fingers through his light hair, looking back towards the window.  “Let’s face it, Ki,” he said, a little softly.  “I’m not going to find anything here in the city.  Anything legitimate will not be willing to pass over our identities or be willing to ignore using thumbprints—and even if they were, Izioth would find us anyway.”

“And you think it’ll be any different outside of the city?  Izioth can find us anywhere, Daz.”

“There’s less resources in the country.  Izioth won’t be able to find us as easily.”

“There’s less resources for us to survive!  You aren’t thinking this through very well!”

That hit a nerve, and Ceveth winced.  Dazant’s face clouded with anger, and then he was on his feet.  Kivessa glared at him, unwilling to backdown.

96%

“Don’t you dare accuse me of not thinking things through.  Everything I do—everything I do, Ki—is for you and Cev!  Of course I think things through!”

Kivessa huffed and crossed her arms.  “How much you do for us has nothing to do with how well you think it through!  Gosh, Daz, don’t go making arbitrary decisions when you haven’t thought it through!”

Ceveth watched his brother’s fingers start to curl in, and then Dazant forced himself to relax before he’d made an actual fist.  He started to turn away, then instead looked at Ceveth.

“What are you doing?”

“N—well, nothing.”

Dazant looked as if he didn’t necessarily believe him.   But instead of requesting to see Ceveth’s tablet, he sighed, raised his eyes to the ceiling, and turned back to the window. He didn’t sit.

Ceveth glanced at the tablet. 99%, it read. Almost a second later, it said, COMPLETED. Smiling a little, Ceveth returned his focus to the purchase, which now said, PURCHASE VALIDATED. ESTIMATED ARRIVAL: ~JUNE 7, 2137.

Ceveth glanced up and caught Kivessa’s gaze. She raised an eyebrow. He gave her a thumbs up, and mouthed, Happy early birthday, sis.

Kivessa smiled.

“Hey, Daz,” she said gently. “What do you say we go and get some lunch?”

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.