Monthly Archives: October 2014

October Meeting

This month we discussed one WIP, which is advancing very well.  The other WIP is at a standstill while the outline is re-written and other POVs added to round out the whole story.

Discussion centred on what characters DO, and how to describe things that show.  For example, when a word is in there and it says decrepit (or similar), we (the writers) need to put in the words that show that, and allow the reader to see what decrepit is:  ‘the brown and yellow blotchy stains on what was once wallpaper rolled down the wall like a tsunami frozen in time, leaving a dusty white trail and holes where spiders had made their webs.  Dust filled the hair-line cracks and sifted to the floor.  No footsteps had disturbed the inches-thick layer of detritus scattered in the walkway.  Books, with the pages mouldy and the spines cracked, lay open and twisted like corpses of thought that died.’

Well, something like that!  Does it show you what decrepit looks like?

If we say a character was wearing something, what do we need to do to show the clothing?  Show the character choosing the item, why they are choosing that item (is it for a special reason?  To impress?  To be inconspicuous?  To fit in?), and how it all goes together.  An example: ‘Doris riffled through the hangers in her wardrobe.  Her fingers caressed the red silk, but that was not appropriate for a night with George.  George would need her to be less Doris.  She slid the designer label grey suit and blue silk shirt from their hangers and laid them out on the bed.  Now what shoes?  There had to be something she could wear that would be her real self, and not what was expected.  She sat down and lifted out each pair of evening shoes.  Green suede – no;  blue patent leather – no, too shiny; black ankle boots with the leopard skin flap – yes, she folded the flap up so the animal was hidden.  She would know it was there.’  First draft only, but for use as an example (all writing can be improved).

The other discussion was of a piece written more than a decade ago, and shows the growth and improvement that comes from actively seeking to hone the craft of writing.  It is, however, a good place to start the next story (with improvements, of course).

We discussed our aim of producing an anthology e-book, and have finalised some of the criteria: how many words for each story/author, themes, a good title to show the concept of what will be in there, and a timeline.  We also considered the options for publishing and who to use, what we need to do in the next few months, and how to design for the market we choose.

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October Tool Kit Topic – Characterisation

Well, it’s easy to say ‘make your character a real person’, but how to do that?

Some people recommend making a list of all the attributes of the character – what they look like, age, gender; what they do, think, feel about things; what they wear; what their history is (backstory); where they live and who they live with (family); social and theological beliefs; community; …

But does it really work?  In some cases, it can round out your person; not always.  There are ways to put yourself (author) in the role of a ‘character writer’, which is to say the writer becomes the character in the same way that an actor becomes a character (a character actor).

As usual, discussion was intense and many options for real characters were thrown up in the air, thrown out, and scribbled down.  In the end, the character must be not just three-dimensional, but four.

A four dimensional character is well-rounded, complete and has a deep, sincere, and life-changing motivation.

Yes, motivation is the fourth dimension.  If a character is not motivated, they are not fully involved in the story, and therefore, the character will seem to be flat in relation to the real person we were hoping to find.

A moment of discussion here:  a fully-rounded, four dimensional character is an active character – they DO things (and this comes down to the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ mantra).  A real person does things that show their character – by doing, interacting, saying, thinking, etc, we see the real person.  Let the character do things for themselves; let them be real!

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Filed under Toolbox for Writers Craft