Tag Archives: character development

Shopping For Characters

Casting Director

In my last post, I told you that I visualize my characters before I flesh them out on the page. So I pretend I’m the casting director for the movie about my book.

Hunting Season

When I’m  in this developmental phase, I do a lot of people watching. I’ll sit at the mall, I’ll eavesdrop on conversations, I’ll eyeball parents–grandparents– at the soccer fields. Any seasoned hunter will tell you that opportunity only knocks once and you have to be alert at all times. After all, you never know when your next victim, umm, I mean character, will emerge from the shadows. Take that Sunday at church…

I’d been hunting for Newcomb: storyteller, man in his fifties, wise, confident, white hair, medium build. I had just about conceded defeat until an elderly gentleman several rows in front of me caught my attention. The lighting made his white hair glow. I perked up and watched his every move, noted how the light caught every strand of hair, imagined him in the tunic he’d be wearing in my story… I don’t remember the sermon but I’ll never forget discovering Newcomb.

Let ‘Em Have It!

Annoy WriterI love this mug’s saying, not only because it’s funny but because it’s true! Channeling one’s anger (or any emotional experience) into a character is a GREAT way to add depth.  I purposefully made DeMorley (a conniving minstrel lacking musical talent) my Nashville music biz punching bag. I poured my negative experiences-the filth, the lies, the BS-into DeMorley. Not only was this refreshing and fun to do, but it saved me from paying a psychiatrist or being arrested for assault.

I hope this helps and good luck writing!

 

 


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 8

On the 8th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

The south corridor is darker than usual, which is no surprise to Wendell: Doors remain shut when someone dies. Some hide. Some mourn. Some—like kids trying to ward off the Boogie-man—hope that wood, varnish, and steel will delay their fate.

Only one door is open. Yellow light spills into the gloomy corridor. He makes his way to Ira’s room and peers in.

The bed is made. A wheelchair sits in the corner. The room is empty.

A middle-aged man emerges from the bathroom holding some toiletries and spots Wendell hovering in the doorway.  

  “May I help you,” he asks as he makes his way to the bed where a duffel bag sits.

 “Ira Rubin. Is it true? He’s gone?”

 The man stashes the toiletries in the bag. “Went in his sleep.” He zips it shut. “Were you a friend?”

“I suppose, although now that I think about it, I wasn’t a very good one.”

The man grabs the bag and heads for the door. He extends his hand to Wendell. “I’m Cliff Rubin, Ira’s son.”

Wendell stares in disbelief at Cliff’s hand and then into his face. Hooked nose, close-set eyes, piercing gaze. Just like Ira.

He throws off his doubts, regains his wit, and shakes Cliff’s hand. “I’m Wendell Bennett. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Cliff sucks in air and gives a solemn nod. He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a white envelope.

“He left this for you.”

“What’s inside,” he asks, fearing the worst news possible.

“No idea; yours is sealed shut, just like mine was.” He taps the pocket holding his letter. “Kinda how he lived: all sealed up, keeping everyone away, all his thoughts secret.” Finger tap, tap, taps. “I sat on his bed for over an hour working up the courage to open it.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “Figured it was a suicide note.”

“Suicide…” Wendell staggers against the doorframe.

 “No,” Cliff says as he helps Wendell maintain his balance. “That came out wrong. I thought it was, but it turns out to be an apology.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 5

On the 5th day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man. (You can read previous portions in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

Wendell jerks away from the memory. “I used to have faith like yours.”

“Faith like mine?” Ira snorts. “The only time I set foot in a church was to get married. And you know how that ended.”

“But for the past month, all you’ve talked about is religion.”

Ira reaches for Wendell who instinctively steps back. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I’ve found joy.”

Wendell smirks. “So what does she look like?”

Ira scowls and leans back in his wheelchair. “You do that a lot.”

“Do what?”

“Joke around when I hit on something uncomfortable.”

 Wendell takes a sip of tea and gives Ira a nod of respect. “Okay, I’ll bite: tell me how you found joy.”

Ira leans forward and gestures with his hands to illustrate his story. “It all started several months ago. I was feeling like one of those elephants in that Tarzan movie. You know, life’s over, nothing to live for, so many mistakes and regrets. Even thought about ending it all. But as fate would have it, Ruth dropped by. Something about her intrigued me.”

“It’s called sex appeal.”

Ira smirks. “See? There you go…”

“Okay, you were saying…

“Well, she’s always wearing a smile and seems, well, content. Anyway, we talk and she says it all has to do with her faith, so she hands me a Bible. I was skeptical, so I decided to read a chapter or two and if nothing happened, then I’d figure something else out.”

Ira looks over the top of his glasses. “Now I know this will sound crazy, but the words seemed to hop off the page and into me.” Ira taps his chest. “I haven’t been the same since. You wanna talk about joy?!”

“Look, just because you experienced euphoria doesn’t prove God exists. Maybe you should go see the doctor. I bet your meds are out of whack.”

 Ira, undeterred, wets his lips to deliver his final thought. “What I’m trying to tell you is this: I found God here in Villa Velencia.”


Back In The Game

I’m not sure what happened. I was blogging on a regular basis, picking up steam and then BAM!

Actually, I’m fully aware of what happened: LIFE!

All good stuff mind you, but I overextended myself and blogging got pushed to the back burner. Now that I’ve mastered life and all that’s being thrown my way, I thought I’d get something posted.

By the way,  if you’re interested in how you can MASTER LIFE and smack those hard balls out of the park, send me $50 and I’ll mail you my book (soon to be written…no, not really) that gives YOU the keys to unlocking your full potential and live life….(insert bombastic, redundant sales BS)

Back to reality. Below is the free post from Chapter 2 of Tears of Min Brock.

“Guess I showed them who is the boss,” Galadin said, his eyes twinkling with confidence. Elabea, however, wondered if her parchment was what had protected them. Almost like an invisible shield.

Galadin, like his father, was barrel chested and made strenuous tasks like chopping wood look leisurely. His eyes he got from his mother and shone like black pearls when hunting. However, when he became angry, they became more like thunderclouds, even sinister.

Yet, despite his strong physique and towering size, within him was a weakness. Mithe was correct: His father was going mad. Galadin had been successful in concealing this shame from everyone in the village. All, that is, except one.

She was glad Min Brock had forged them together, even if they were outcasts in their own village. They were identical in age, and even in their younger summers, sensed they were different from the other children. Neighbor’s foreign looks made them feel on edge. Huddled friends chilling whispers made them become even more isolated.

So they formed a secret pact, an unspoken allegiance, in order to weather the storm. At the heart of their friendship was a deep understanding that no one else in Hetherlinn could offer, not even their parents. Galadin understood why she needed to escape to the meadow and climb the oak, despite the Oracles, and he listened to her stories, even when they were wilder than anything he had ever hunted.

Likewise, Elabea comprehended why he fled cottage seven and explored the woods, and why she was the one he shared his hunting tales with. Simply put, they knew what it felt like to live in homes full of shame and more importantly, had learned how to survive despite it.

Nearing cottage number seven, Elabea asked,   “Did you see or hear anything odd last night?”

“No, just my father snoring. Why?”

“Well, last night, I saw an amazing creature.” Elabea became increasingly excited as she explained. “Only it wasn’t an animal.” Her speech became faster. “It, I mean he, looked more like a man—only not like us—so I gave him a name…the Moon King, and—”

“Slow down! What are you talking about?”

“Late last night,” she said, focusing on a slower delivery, “I saw a mysterious rider on a flying horse; they both glowed like the moon. I wish you could have seen them! I’m positive the Moon King is the one responsible for shooting the invitations into our doors.”

Galadin tried not to snicker, but this was not the first time he had heard one of her amazing stories. All were fashioned into fantastic proportions.

“Look,” he said, “I’ve hunted through every thicket and meadow the Oracles will allow. Let me assure you that there is no one like the Moon King. The only odd thing I’ve witnessed is a bald hermit. I’ve only gotten a glimpse of him, and I’ve nicknamed him the Wizard of the Wood. But trust me, he’s anything but mystical. Gone are the days of strange beings, magical creatures and mighty warriors.”

Flustered, Elabea snapped, “I know what I saw!”


Step Into My World

Characters

When creating characters, I draw from actors, athletes, politicians, neighbors, etc., and use their physical appearance or personality traits for the basic form. Next, I develop them with more detail so that they fit in my story.

In Tears of Min Brock, I created Mithe from bits and pieces of people I’ve come across in life. But was she believable?

Welcome!

Months later while dining out, I glanced up from my Teriyaki Chicken to witness Mithe waddling in! She didn’t have all of the physical characteristics I’d imagined, and I’m sure she was a much nicer person too, but nevertheless, there she was. My point is that the world is full of funny, interesting, weird, odd, stunning, horrible, beautiful people just waiting to step into your story’s world.

For those following the “FREE” book posts, here’s the next installment.

Passing each dwelling, she noticed all had a crystal arrow stuck in its door. The parchments rustled in the wind like dried corn stalks. Curious, she slowed her pace.

I’m the only one who’s removed the arrow and untied the parchment.

She suppressed her fears until nearing the communal fire, she heard her neighbors whispering and saw them pointing at the arrows. Anxiety and fear sparked within Elabea’s thoughts.

Mithe, the old widow, spied Elabea and most noticeably the parchment clutched in her hand.

“Look!” she hissed to the assembled families. “Here comes Quinn’s only child! Behold what the homely girl is holding!”

The whispers stopped. Eyes stared at her parchment. Children hid behind their parents. Elabea stopped cold in her tracks.

Mithe wobbled toward her, leaning heavily upon her thick, twisted cane. Wrapped about her head and shoulders was a dark tattered blanket; a few long, gray hairs protruded out.

Peering from the shadows was a round face whose flesh no longer fit the bone. Seventy summers had covered it with large, thick wrinkles, some of which cascaded off her high cheekbones like floppy saddlebags. A furrowed brow, wrinkled by bitterness, concealed her pain-filled eyes. The one feature that made Elabea cringe was her voice. Steam hissing out of a pot that had been on the coals too long.

Mithe raised a long, bony finger accusingly at Elabea. “Destroy that invitation before it destroys us!”

“So it’s an invitation,” Elabea cooed, delighted to finally know the note’s contents.

Mithe’s eyes narrowed, angry with herself for inadvertently revealing the parchment’s message. Regaining her composure, she continued her tirade.   “Do you wish to curse us? I command you to destroy it!”

“Why is everyone so afraid of it? What’s it an invitation to?”

Elabea searched their faces. “It’s from Claire, isn’t it?” she asked them.

The crowd pressed toward her.

“Silence!” one man shouted. “The Oracles forbid you to speak the name!”

“Death will come! We’ll be cursed!” yet another threatened.

“Take your parchment and leave us…NOW!” a woman boomed.

“I don’t believe the Cauldron can hear,” Elabea countered. A corporate gasp erupted from the crowd. Undeterred, Elabea continued. “What if the Ebonites tell us such tales in order to control us with our own fears?”

“Stupid waif!” Mithe hissed. “You know nothing of such things!”

“You’re right,” Elabea replied in defense, “I’m ignorant because no one has taught me such things. You refuse to teach us how to read, so how can I know if I cannot read for myself?”

The crowd stepped closer, but all eyes were on the parchment, as if it held unspeakable powers.

Or evil.


Looking for Love…

…In All the Wrong Places.

Even if you hate Country music, I think you’ll agree that the songwriter really hit the target…or a nerve!

A Treasure Chest

I’ve had seasons when I was a carbon copy of this song. Sometimes I was the recipient. Other times I was the devil. As a writer, these emotions/experiences are a treasure chest for character development.

Acceptance

We all want it. We all crave it. But do we ever find it? In my journey, it’s taken a professional counselor to help me face the truth about myself. Such insight and discovery has not only freed me to be a better friend, husband and dad, but has empowered me as a writer when fleshing out my characters.

So when that guy or girl dumps you, don’t loose heart. Instead, turn them into a character and let ’em have it! 🙂

For those following the “300 x 2” FREE book, here’s the next installment.

Chapter 2

Forged Friendship

Elabea darted away from her home, longing to escape her parents and more importantly, the shackles of the Oracles. She did not consider herself a rebel, or one brave enough to defy Ebon’s might. She simply hungered for two qualities her home and village could not provide.

Love and acceptance.

She glanced at the parchment clutched in her hand. The tingling sensation was gone, but the thought that it had been delivered from Claire sent goose bumps racing over her back. After all, she had been taught that Claire was destroyed in the Dark War, and that it was a land of death and deception. The parchment and the Moon King were proof otherwise.

As she ran, she took in the cottages of Hetherlinn. Constructed from planed boards, they were stained white while the windows, of which there were only two, were sealed with dark green shutters. Thatched roofs sloped off the quaint two story dwellings and nearly touched the ground. However, the most notable feature was the numbers above the unpainted doors. Black stain, sloppily brushed by Ebonite warriors, numbered each cottage.

Another requirement from the Oracles so Ebon can tally us like cows!

Hers was Number 17 and sat at the bottom of the crescent. She liked being far away from the others, especially when her father had had too much wildeberry wine.

Another glance. Another painted number.

Fourteen.

She recalled seeing a young boy, Phinnton, peering at her from his bedroom window. She would wave, but he was too shy, and would dart back into the shades.

At night, the sweet refrains sung by Phinnton’s mother floated like a dream into her bedroom. She would open her shutters and rest on her window frame, soaking up the musical serenade. Every now and then, when the wind was blowing her way, she would catch some of the lyrics.

The Singing Stones of Addoli, she reflected. How I wish I knew what that meant…

Several summers ago, the singing stopped. Elabea assumed the boy was older and grew tired of bedtime lullabies. A rumor spread that she had been whisked away one night by the Ebonites for violating an Oracle. From that day forth, Phinnton and his father became hermits.


I’ve Been Duped!

“Its Beauty is its Deception!”

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY simply because it was attractive?

Maybe a new car? A relationship? The dream job?  And let’s say you get it only to discover that the car still breaks down, the relationship comes with baggage, or the perfect job is managed by crazy people?

Well, I have! As a writer, I draw upon these experiences to craft my stories. Sometimes I regurgitate it unfiltered through a character and let them deal with the consequences. Now THAT’S fun! Other times I become the magician, getting you to focus on the shiny, red scarf in my left hand while my right hand is preparing to WOW you with a rabbit. Well, not a real rabbit, unless of course that’s part of the plot, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now…or is it? 🙂

(For those following the “FREE Book” posts, here’s the conclusion to Chapter 01, Tears of Min Brock.)

Quinn lifted his throbbing head and glared at the women. “Why must you two be so loud?” he thundered.

Elabea remembered a time many summers ago when his eyes sparkled with life, but that was before he went off to fight in the Dark War. Now they were opaque and lifeless. Spying the parchment in the fire, he asked Elabea, “Where did you get that?”

His eyes became icy.

Backing away, she meekly answered, “It was attached to an arrow stuck in our door. What is it?”

It is from the land of lies!” he slurled.

Claire!” Elabea whispered, noting that despite the flames, the parchment was not burning.

“Don’t say the word!” Areall yelled, her placid expression now like churning rapids. Turning her fury on Quinn, she shouted, “Your night of drink is making you talk too much!”

“I’ll talk when and how I like!” he yelled back.

While they argued, Elabea knew this was her chance. Darting to the fireplace, she grabbed a small stick on the hearth and plunged it into the coals.

“Stop!” Quinn roared as he struggled to rise from his chair. “Leave it!” Becoming dizzy, he slumped back down.

“Amazing,” Elabea muttered as she dragged it onto the cool hearth. “It’s not burnt and is even free of soot. It’s so…beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” Areall replied derisively. She crept toward the parchment as if an evil spirit possessed it. “Its beauty is its deception!” she snarled. Unwilling to get any closer, she whispered,“Burn it! Destroy it or you will curse us. The Cauldron will know and see. They will come!”

Elabea calmly picked it up. “They’ve never come before! Besides, how can something so beautiful be evil?”

Areall reached for her but Elabea was too quick. She raced out the door.


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