Writing Advice: Cast of Characters

http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com
http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com

In the world of the internet, there is a concept known as “fancasting.” In a nutshell, this means that you take a favorite book and cast actors in the roles of the main characters. This often leads to people photoshopping pictures of the actors so that they look more like the characters in the book. It’s a fun exercise for fans of books, but it could also be a great exercise for writers.

Sarah Perlmutter wrote about fancasting your own characters and I think it could be a great way for writers to get more interested in their own stories. In her post, Sarah says that fancasting your own stories can help inspire you because you have a walking, talking person to imagine when you’re writing a specific character. You can even draw on an actor’s physical and vocal tics to use in your character’s makeup.

If you’re someone who gets passionate about fanfiction or fancasting books that you love to read, I would suggest trying out this method for your own work. Imagining who might play the characters you’re creating in a movie adaptation can motivate you to write, and it can also just be fun!

If you really want to get creative (and more organized), I would recommend the CharaHub website. It’s generally used for mapping out characters in a roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons, but writers can also use it to organize characters in their stories. I used this website for one of my past projects and was really happy with it. You can insert pictures for each character and create a full fact sheet for each one.

I hope this helps you out! Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Writing Advice: Connections

http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com
http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com

As I’ve said on the blog many times, characters are an integral part of any writing project. But it can be difficult to keep track of everyone involved in your story, and how they all connect. There are certain genres — fantasy, for instance — in which stories contain large casts of characters. If you write within these genres and have a highly populated story, you might find it helpful to use a technique or tool to keep all your character connections straight, and to perhaps create some new ones.

My first suggestion comes from author Marie Lu, which she offered in her pep talk for National Novel Writing Month. Marie said, “Write a long list of all your characters. Then, start drawing random lines connecting random characters to each other. Don’t think—just connect. Afterward, look down at your page. Try to figure out a connection between each of the two random characters you just linked—something scandalous, maybe, or something sweet. Something three-dimensional and unexpected. Some explosive scene that throws the two together.”

If you’re looking for some new character connections that will spice up your story or banish your writers’ block, then Marie Lu’s suggestion is a great one. Seeing a visual reminder of who is involved in your story, and creating actual, visual connections between them can be just what you need to discover where your story should go next. This is also a great exercise if you’re feeling blocked and need to find a new direction for your writing.

Secondly, I’d like to suggest a website called CharaHub. The purpose of this website is to catalog the characters in your story, describe their traits and backstories, and then connect them all in one handy place. The site is free to join and you can keep all of your character profiles private if you don’t want to share with others. CharaHub is a great way to stay organized, and it’s a helpful repository for ideas that you can return to whenever you need to. I have found the site to be really helpful with my recent writing project, which has a lot of characters with different, intricate connections.

Characters can invade writers’ brains sometimes, and that can be just as helpful as it is maddening. When you have so many different people to think about all at once, it can be difficult to keep things straight! Hopefully these tools will help you out. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Writing Advice: The Characters

http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com
http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com

As I’ve said before on this blog, I consider characters to be immensely important. When I’m reading or watching something, I want the characters to be written in a way that makes me care about them. I want to be invested in them as people even though they’re only fictional. The fact that you can care about a character means that they have been written well, and I think it’s something that all writers should strive for. Yes, plot and other elements of a story are important, but characters are what will make a reader become attached to the story that you write.

With that in mind, I want to talk about something that Brunonia Barry mentions in her post on Writer Unboxed, “10 Tips about Process.” Barry says that it is important to listen to your characters when you’re writing a story. She writes, “What does each character want? What’s keeping her from getting it? If I put the right characters in a situation and understand what motivates them, the plot seems to develop naturally. If I’m trying to control the outcome instead of listening, the story always falls flat.”

That last sentence is the most important one, I think. As weird as it may sound, your characters can definitely “talk” to you and sometimes it’s essential that you listen to what they have to say because they can steer you in the right direction. This might be one of those situations in which you have to abandon a carefully constructed outline. Although you had a vision for the end of your story, it’s very possible that your characters won’t want to go there.

I think we’ve all experienced this while writing. You’re in the middle of a scene, trying to make it work, and you suddenly feel as though you’re forcing it. Instead of feeling organic and real, the scene feels like you’ve stood your characters up as set pieces and are just making them go through the motions and say the lines you’re writing for them. The best writing feels organic and free as you’re writing it, and it should come out that way on the other end for readers.

So listen to your characters! You created them and now they know where they should be headed. When you feel like you’re forcing a scene, just take a step back and think about what your characters needs or wants to be doing in your scene. Then go with that and see if things flow a bit better. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Writing Advice: Conflict!

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http://www.puregenie.com

Characters, as I’m sure you know, need to have different dimensions to their personalities. This is what is meant when professors or authors say that characters should be round rather than flat. One of the things that makes characters more rounded and interesting is to give them conflict. Yes, inner conflict is a great tool to use when you’re writing. Everyone (well, almost everyone) enjoys a character who is plagued by inner turmoil of some kind. But sometimes that can become old as a writing trope. If you write about a character who spends a lot of his time moaning about an old battle he took place in, or a girlfriend who left him long ago, then readers may get bored.

To break the boredom of your reader, it can help to introduce an external conflict for your character to contend with. While they’re moaning about their long lost girlfriend, you could add in something like a shark attack for him to escape from. Or perhaps someone is just giving him a hard time at the grocery store checkout line, which exacerbates his already unpleasant mood.

As always, I’ve turned to Mr. Chuck Wendig and his blog, Terrible Minds, for some advice on this matter. In his post, 25 Things a Great Character Needs, Chuck talks about this very concept. He says, “external conflict is pretty cool, too. If the character is plagued by an old war wound, a damaged spaceship, a mysterious old villain who shows up to perform surgical karate on the character, all good. Doubly good if the external conflict matches or speaks to the internal conflict in some way. Say, for instance, an author who is addicted to slathering his beard with illicit ermine scent glands is also pursued by a very angry ermine scent gland dealer named Vito who would apparently like his money. Just an example.”

I especially like what Chuck says here about matching your character’s internal conflict to their external conflict. If they have something that’s plaguing them internally, adding an outside element that somehow connects to that will only emphasize it more for your readers. Whatever you choose — internal or external — just remember that conflict is the core of any story, and it will help develop your characters and move along your plot. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan