Writing

Why I Differentiate My Characters from Myself

Image from Pixabay

Many authors base their characters off of people they know. A high percent of people also base their stories off of real-life experiences. However, I am different. I rarely or never do any of those things.

One: I find my life experiences too ordinary and straightforward. Two: I find it more exciting to make them very different from me.

For example, the MC of my novels is Irish Catholic, blonde, and has had a tragic life. I am Indian and Hindu, dark-haired, and has lived a typical life with hardly any tragedies. I lost my paternal grandpa when I was 2, so I don’t remember him. My maternal grandpa died when I was 22 but I didn’t cry. I only experienced shocking pain for a few hours. That’s really it for the sad moments in my life.

I could explain my MC’s tragic life. But that is within the novels. You can find them through reviews, excerpts, or if you choose to purchase the books.

Anyway, I find varying and differentiating things far more fun than making them like me. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same things, even if that meant little to no conflicts. I could be wrong, though.

Differentiating characters from myself also opens more room for growing knowledge, even if that means extra research. If I wrote about Hindu characters, I probably would not have to do as much research. But I would also get bored. And if it’s boring to write, it’s usually boring to read.

While I rarely make characters similar to myself, I never base them off people I know. But that will be for another post. That being said, I do give some similarities occasionally, such as food tastes. Overall, though, I differ from other writers.

movie

Satisfying vs. Unsatisfying Movie Endings

Warning: contains spoilers for the following films***

Avengers: Infinity War

Into the Woods

The Little Mermaid (both original tale and Disney movie)

Tarzan (both original tale and 1999 Disney movie)

When people watch a movie, they not only expect a good story, but also a lot of conflict. Because every fictional work, visual or written, needs problems and obstacles, many audiences expect satisfying endings, where the protagonists achieve their goals. If they don’t, then it’s either because they realized those goals weren’t what they wanted all along or they weren’t the right kinds.

Rarely these days are film endings unsatisfying. One example includes “Avengers: Infinity War”, where the characters dissolve into dust. But there is a part two now. I don’t know how it ends and I won’t look it up now. Anyway, the other example of a movie with an unsatisfactory ending is “Into the Woods”. The baker’s wife dies and so does the witch after her curse was undone. I understand that the point is that there is no such thing as “happily ever after”. But it was still unsatisfying, especially coming from Disney. Disney is known to sugarcoat their film endings.

Like in “The Little Mermaid”, where Ariel marries Prince Eric as a human. In the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, she dies at the end and the prince gets another bride. I read that the creators of the Disney version found that sad. They felt that in order to make their adaptation more kid/family-friendly, the ending needed to be happier.

Another example, although probably not as sad (I could be wrong, though), is Disney’s “Tarzan”. While Jane and Professor Porter join Tarzan in the jungle, in the original novel, Tarzan is brought back to civilization.

Audience and genres also contribute to how the films should end. Horror films often end a certain way. The ones I saw didn’t have very satisfying endings. But there likely is a purpose for that. Horror movies are not intended for families or children. Kid-friendly films have different standards from mature movies, besides cleanliness. Also, many young people yearn for happy endings. So do older crowds.

Writing

Unintentional Symbolism and Messages I’ve Made in My Writing

Image from Pixabay

Have any of you wrote something and didn’t realize anything significant about your work until long after? I have. They are symbols and messages I didn’t discover until a lengthy time after writing the projects.

For instance, in my first book, “The Frights of Fiji” (formerly, “From Frights to Flaws”), there are mermaid-like women, but with dolphin tails, who sing certain songs as a way of informing others of their presences. Those songs ended up relating to the situations they were encountering or leaving.

In my second book, “The Uncontrollable Curse” (formerly “Wizardry Goes Wild”), my MC wants her dog to attack the antagonist, who is a skeleton. At the time I wrote the story, I tied that dog vs. skeleton situation with historical context—not because of the “dog-eating-bones” stereotype.

Another unintentional message I ended up making in that installment was about history repeating itself. I’m not going to spoil anything, of course (“The Uncontrollable Curse” hasn’t even come out yet), but the book does tie a lot of Puritan and Salem Witch Trials content. My MC is cursed with involuntary magic. When she does it, others misunderstand and become afraid of her. This ties to how people during Pilgrim and witch hunt times were miscomprehended and feared when they were just different. While people who were found guilty of witchcraft were hanged and/or burned, the “witch” (my MC) is penalized for her sorcery by getting detention at school, suspended, excluded from activities, and more (I won’t give away anything else).

I have yet to discover any accidental messages or symbols in my third book. But hey—it might happen.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

Writing

The Dialogue… It’s so Incredibly Difficult!

Image from Pixabay

Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen to how people speak.

Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help, either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their characters’ dialogue.

But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s so frustrating!

However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I changed the words.

Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.

Writing

How I Wish I Could Write Several Novels at Once

Image from Pixabay

I’m an author and authors constantly write. However, I am weak at multi-tasking, even with writing. For years, I could only work on one novel at a time. But that meant only one publication every few years. And that is not very fair to fans or readers.

I’ve been doing research on writing more than one story at a time. Many writers can do it. Some do it because they have too many ideas floating in their heads. Others do it because they want to meet deadlines sooner, especially if they have agents.

I’ve tried many times but have failed… until now. I am working on two works at this time. Well, technically three as I am having one project edited. But this is a huge milestone for me. It’s not easy. I am glad that I started with a small step of only adding one extra project. There is a technique I read about somewhere called drafting. That is when you work on one story draft at a time with different projects. For example, you write a draft of story a. After you finish that draft, you do a draft for story b. Basically, you work on one story at a time, but go to another one after finishing a certain draft rather than spending a long time on just one story.

I am not really doing that, though. I have been working on my third novel for over three years, although the first two years were spent trying to figure out the story. I am now working on the third book and the first draft of my fourth book at the same time. Sometimes I am designating certain days for one story. Other times I am working on whichever I feel like.

If you want to work on more than one story at a time, I would definitely recommend you go for it. In fact, many big authors work on more than one book at a time. If you’re serious about publishing, then I would emphasize on this even more. If it’s traditional publishing, depending on the contract you have with an agent or publisher, it may work. However, traditional publishing takes longer, and you have no control over the process or time. If you’re self-publishing, you have total control over your projects, when you publish them, and the time it takes to publish. If you do Amazon KDP, you can choose a release date up to three months (I think) ahead if you choose the pre-order option.

The reason I want to work on more than one novel at a time and write faster is because I don’t want to keep people waiting. Plus, I don’t want my final installment to be ready when I’m, like, 40. Not that I have anything against publishing at that age (many authors are, at least, that age). Plus, my writing will likely be more mature by then. I just don’t know where I will be in life then. I’m only 25 after all.

My goal is to have my entire series published by my 30th birthday. No, I am not looking to become the youngest author with a full series. I just want to keep readers up to date more often. Plus, I have a better idea of where I’ll be in five years versus fifteen. I know I can make this work.

Writing

How I Develop My Characters

Characters come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and much more. So do the ways they are developed.

Many writers base their characters of real people they know. They also develop them like the folks they know.

Want to know how I develop my characters? Yes? All right. Here I go. I often develop them as I develop my storylines. I get to know them as I draft. I unconsciously develop them through other story elements too, like dialogue and actions.

Now these are not the only ways I develop my characters. Sometimes I plan their personalities, even if the characters don’t make it to the final drafts. I also might base them off other fictional characters from other franchises, sometimes myths and legends. For example, in one of my works, there’s a character inspired by the Grim Reaper.  

Unlike many authors, I never really base characters off people I know. However, I do often develop them like those in my lives. This was especially common in my earlier works, when I was still learning how to develop my characters. I developed a couple like my cousins at that time and one like my brother back then.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all way to developing characters. It is, however, important to make your characters believable, round rather than flat, crucial to your story, imperfect (they should have at least some flaws), and change at the end of your tale. This is especially essential for you main or major characters.

This technique also takes a while to learn. It took me, like, seven years to discover my writing voice. A similar amount of time might happen for you if you’re new to creative writing.

If you search for me on Amazon, you’ll see that I have published five books, but only one is for sale. That is because the others weren’t exactly the strongest. Except for one, I did pretest the others to make sure they were good enough to please strangers. They were. But I felt the novels could’ve been better.

So hang tight as you learn to develop your characters. If you need assistance, there are character development worksheets you can find online and use to answer questions about your characters. Sometimes I’ve interviewed my characters, answered questionaires about them, or even wrote short stories from their points-of-view. This might help you. Something will.

Writing

When You Unconsciously Use the Plot Structure in Any Story You Write

I’ve been studying the writing craft for years. It was seven and a half years ago when I learned the right rules of creative writing. It took about that long to hone my skills and mature my creative writing abilities to what they are now.

However, before I studied the craft, I wrote a bad novel that I was dying to publish and convinced my parents to let me do so. When it was published, there was no positive feedback. However, I do realize now that I still included the classic plot structure, which I wasn’t aware at during that time. I continued to use that structure in later novels where I studied the craft.

What is the structure, you may ask? It starts of with the inciting incident, where something greatly changes your main character’s situation and sets him or her up on a rough road to achieve his or her goal. Then there is a call to action, and the main character often refuses it at first. Then he or she will accept it.

Next comes the first plot pinch, which sets your main character up for failure. Then there is the midpoint, which can be a major defeat or loss. That will push the protagonist’s struggle to achieve his or her goal even further. There will be complications and higher stakes, which will lead to an all-is-lost moment, where the antagonist wins at that time.

Then comes the climax, where something prepares the protagonist for the final battle (not always literally, though). There may be a ticking clock too, where the protagonist’s time starts running out. Finally, there is the resolution of denouement, where the main character has come somewhere satisfying. He or she may achieve his or her goal. If not, he or she may realize that the goal was not something he or she had wanted all along or something not right for him or her.

And no matter what story I write, usually novels, this plot structures comes out into my writing unintentionally. I don’t know why, though. It’s like my brain has somehow inserted the plot structure into its subconscious or something. But that’s probably a good thing.

No matter where you are in the writing process, whether you are new or experienced, it’s important to know the plot structure. Any successful work, written or visual, needs to follow this structure.

Writing

Plot Hole Problems: Why They Bother Me (and Others)

Plot holes happen everywhere: movies, TV shows, books, and so forth. Even the top writers end up making plot holes, either as inconsistencies or unanswered questions.

Of course, no one ever means it—at least not usually. Even when they are being reviewed by agents or anyone before the works get released to the general public, plot holes are missed. It often isn’t until after the works are available to the public that the plot holes are pointed out. Sometimes, shortly after, and other times, not till several years later.

Obviously, no work is perfect nor do any please everybody. But some plot holes bother certain people a lot. There are examples in some of my movie critique posts, like “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”. The ones where I spend a lot of time expressing my thoughts are the ones that bother me the most.

A plot hole I have not addressed here before is from the book, “Being Julia”. It’s not a super-big bestseller. But it was good and engaging up to a certain point. Julia gets grounded and has her computer confiscated. She tries to convince her dad to give it back to her shortly after, even though he won’t. When she is no longer grounded, the reader doesn’t get to see her getting her computer back. Another situation is happening. Then the next chapter takes place months later, when Julia is getting ready for college. Um… hello? When did she get her laptop back? This unanswered question plagued me so much that I wrote to the author and asked when Julia got her laptop back. Sadly, the author didn’t answer. So I moved on.

Some people will address plot holes later or separately. A good example is J.K. Rowling. These days she has been answering so many questions about plot holes in “Harry Potter”. Some folks, like me, enjoy that. Others, however, find it amateurish and lazy. I could see why.

While there are some plot holes in works that don’t bother me or I don’t care about, there are still some that will plague me for a while. A YouTube channel, called Cinemasins, is known for pointing out flaws in movies, such as plot holes. Because I watch movies with a critical eye, I enjoy this channel. I discover issues that I didn’t realize before.

Remember that nobody is perfect. Pretty much all works will have plot holes. Some may be addressed in sequels or on separate sources. Others will remain unanswered forever.

Writing

Story Too Complex to Tell? Don’t Sweat it—I’ve Got Tips

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Stories come in all forms, sizes, moods, and so forth. No two plots are alike. Some are similar. Some differ drastically. Some are short or long. And some are simple or complex.

Of course, each story will depend on audience, trends, and so on. Here, I am going to discuss tips for handling a complex story.

Obviously, your book will be short and sweet as well as very basic if it’s a picture book. As the audience gets older, the stories will lengthen and become more complex. And that doesn’t only apply to writing and plot, but also subplots.

Subplots are secondary storylines in a book that weave into the main plot and they all are important for the tale. If you’re writing for middle-grade children (about 8-11), you may only need one or two subplots at most. If you’re writing for teens (aka the young adult readers) or adults, you might need more subplots. Depending on your skill-level and storyline, up to four subplots might be enough.

However, if you feel you are getting too overwhelmed with subplots or storyline complexity, or readers aren’t receiving the right message you’re trying to communicate, don’t be afraid to remove content that doesn’t add or is not crucial. That includes subplots. Depending on your readers’ ages and levels, you can simplify your plot. If you feel you can’t remove a subplot or two, however, that’s okay. Sometimes, complex material is too important to be scrapped. If it takes you years, especially if you’re just starting out as a writer, don’t worry. Some authors have taken ten or more years to work on a story. One of my works took nearly three years to complete.

Remember, write from your gut as well as what you are passionate about. That is how you will improve and have fun.