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Posts Tagged ‘building believable characters’

Hampden Pocket WatchAs a writer, I’ve always been fascinated by so-called “famous last words,” but not the pronouncements made heading into battle or climbing the gallows steps. In those situations the speaker has prepared, is aware of what is likely to come, and has given their words some forethought as “famous last words.” Lines spoken at times like these are spoken for posterity, and are likely to contain not a small amount of “spin” for the history books.

No, the final utterances that intrigue me are those made suddenly, spontaneously, where the speaker may not be fully cognizant of her surroundings or the situation. At times these last words are puzzling, but while they are possibly no more than the product of a dying brain, they can be quite beautiful. In other cases, however, I believe we can glimpse the true nature of the speaker’s personality. Was she angry? Was he compassionate? Were the last words of love or of rebuke? Last words—when you don’t know they’re last words—can be the most meaningful, the most significant.

Here are four examples of last quotes; the first two are enigmatic, more evocative than illuminating, while the second two pretty much define the person who spoke them.  (more…)

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Stack of BooksI’m still only at about 80% on the health scale–this head cold is a brute–but there’s a definite upward trend, so I figure I can manage one post this week. A dozen topics have risen to the top, only to slip from my focus, except for one. Luckily, it’s a writing topic, so I can indulge myself.

I think it’s fair to say that my writing has evolved over the years. Some of this evolution has been instinctual, which is to be expected from an autodidact like me. Just as I sometimes know that something works without knowing why it works, so do I just sometimes know that something works better without knowing why. Much of the time, though, I am cognizant of the changes in my writing, as they are the result of a conscious shift. Perhaps I’m correcting a bad habit (e.g., an over-reliance on the Rule of Three), or maybe I’m shifting away from one method or style in favor of another.

But then there are the times when a change has been so subtle that I don’t notice it at all. Such is the case with how I deal with antagonists. (more…)

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Captive SlavesI’ve never given much credence to results of “studies” on human social patterns. We’re just too complicated to fit into neat little boxes. However, the other day I learned of one such study which so accurately described me, I had to give it a closer look.

I mention this here because this is the sort of thing that can be used to add depth to the histories of families and characters in my writing.

The study was about birth order and the “middle child syndrome.” Now, “birth order” is not new to me; I heard about it a long time ago but never paid it any attention because, frankly, my family situation doesn’t really fit any common form.

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Lucky Penny

I don’t really believe in luck.

At least, I don’t believe in luck as something we can affect. Things happen; sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. People who we think have “good luck” are just folks who make better decisions than others. People who have repeated “bad luck” are usually not paying close enough attention to what’s going on around them. Beyond that, it’s just the randomness of life. Stuff happens.

So, why do I have a “lucky penny?”

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Gossamer Wheel

In outlining the new book, I create histories. As a result, and today being Veterans’ Day, I was reminded of something I discovered back in 1990.

You see, some American families have a long and celebrated history of military service. My family does not. Some families can measure their generations from war to war. My family cannot. (more…)

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Stack of BooksFirst, a welcome to our new subscribers. At some point we popped up over the 200 member mark, which I find pretty cool. So, thanks, all, for your interest.

My free time this weekend was spent backtracking. I’d started my research of Seattle’s history at 1860, heading up the years toward 1874, but it became clear that for my purposes, 1874 Seattle was just too big a town. I want a setting that is rougher, more primitive, and a town that is smaller.

Picking 1874, the backstory for my main “Old Seattle” character included experience in the Civil War, possibly with injuries, certainly with trauma. I wanted a reason for him to immigrate to the West, but also a reason for him to recoil from society and live outside the town. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiWhen I build my characters, I like a full picture. As I practice this craft, I get better at it. My pictures are more complete each time, and one reason for this is Observation.

Observation teaches two things. First, it shows me actual characteristics, physical and mental, that I can use to build my characters. Appearances, mannerisms, vocal traits, behaviors, they all add to a complete portrait. The second thing observation teaches is types. Yes, I’m sorry to say, but people generally can be classed into types.

Understanding types is important because, when I go against type, I want to know it.

Example: by and large, men are more into sports than women. Yes, I know…some women are sports nuts and I’m not saying they aren’t; I’m saying that, in general, men are more likely to have an interest in sports than women. So, will I never write a female character who’s into sports? No, I might do that in this next book. But if I do, I need to know that the characteristic puts the character in the minority. Why? Because if a character is in the minority of her peers, that might shape her, one way or another.

To this point, an interesting characteristic has been discussed on a couple of boards. It’s a characteristic I hadn’t thought of before, but it’s an important one. I’d like to share it with you, and get your feedback.

It has to do with men and women and the friends they have. (more…)

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