1 Unexpected Book to Help You Write More Fascinating Characters

Creating fascinating personalities to populate a fictional world is a challenge. I have sucked royally at trying in particular to create vivid nice-guys or nice-girls. So I’m always listening and searching to find ways to help myself (and others) to improve at this.

Writers tend to be able to see the world only through our personal “lenses” and often end up with a crowd of look-and-act-and-and-talk-alikes.

So my latest discovery occurred when I was searching out ways to effectively define myself as a writer.

Here it is: (click picture to link to blurb)

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How The World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through TheScience Of Fascination, Sally Hogshead. 2014

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I was intrigued by the premise (not to mention Sally’s terrific last name), and intend to apply a lot of it as she meant it to be used, particularly when seeking out others to fill out my ideal “publishing” team… 

…but I’m even more excited to use this book to build up my writing skills.

3 Quick Brainstorms

1. Use the adjectives and “archetype” descriptions to develop unique and vivid personalities, or to flesh-out the psychological makeup of  existing characters. How they’re described, the words and gestures they use, etc.

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Dressing up the outside of your characters is only a small part of the process of creation.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Augusta via Compfight cc

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2. Mix and match archetypes to set up a team. Now use the strengths and weaknesses of the group and the individuals to address what happens when a stressful situation takes place (car wreck, dragon attack, etc.)

example: A Maverick Leader, Royal Guard, and Secret Weapon all go to a bar, and a fight breaks out…

3. Put a character in distress—-and check out what happens when a personality goes haywire and overdoes its “advantage.”

example: Passion+Passion (an overload) becomes DRAMA QUEEN, while Mystique+Mystique (overload)= totally withdraws and refuses to interact with anyone else

I’m happy to hear other great ideas of how to use this, or other resources, so don’t hesitate to post in the comments.

Enjoy! 

Êlizabeth Ellen Everson

"Secret Weapon" and "Provocateur"

:-)

Food for Thought: How the Heirloom Compares to the Commercial in more than just the Veggie World

A TV chef declared heirloom vegetables taste better.

I had to decide for myself. So I bought some of both. In this case, tomatoes.

(Inspired by Season 2, Episode 2 “Seeds”, The Mind of A Chef , featuring Chef Sean Brock)

Commercially viable tomatoes (the kind most of us are used to buying at the store) were cultivated to be prolific, disease-resistant, and bright (and uniformly) red—-with far less emphasis on taste.( click here to read an NPR report about tomato history.) They’re grown in locations warm enough to produce crops throughout the year, but not with the best tomato-growing soil.

Photo Credit: Chiot’s Run via Compfight cc

From a marketing perspective, commercial tomatoes are a “win”, because studies over the years show that consumers reach for the unblemished bright red (apples have the same results.) They’re cheaper, too. And they’re available in every season. (click here to read about tomato purchasing habits in 2013.) The jury’s still out on whether our preferences are a matter of habit or some kind of internal urge toward certain colors.

Heirloom tomatoes look strange. Green, brown, yellow. But the flavors are influenced by years of cultivation with an emphasis toward producing rich flavor and texture. They reflect the environment in which they were raised—-sun, soil, natural fertilizers—-subject to a seasonal influence for peak flavor. Unforced. They are seasonal.

And of course this got me to thinking about discussions around the writers’ rooms. Some call this “literary” vs. “commercial” fiction, but I think it’s a broader discussion than that.

“Heirloom” stories take longer to write, offer rich flavor 

Crafting a story rich with details, polishing prose, absorbing and considering the nuance of a fictional world can’t be pushed too fast. Seeds get planted, seeds get water, sunlight, all the nurturing. Some reach full maturity.

Others get eaten by insects and chucked into the “compost bin” (closet).

(***notable exceptions***There are folks who are unusually gifted who can write stories of great quality very quickly, but they’re rare, and probably not me.)

"Commercial" stories get produced quickly, a no-wait win

Anyone who loved a book series recalls waiting for the next installment to show up. Remember the lines for the latest Harry Potter?

There is value to producing stories quickly—-a kind of "capture the lightning" effect—-for both reader and writer.

True, some will lack substance and flavor as a result of meeting the necessary speed-deadlines, but they’re not so out-of-date by the time they’re completed that the market for them’s dried up.

To Heirloom, or to Commercial…that is the question

Stories that take a year or longer to produce definitely have a place on the shelf. Sure, they’re often more expensive. Waiting for someone to pull together multiple story-lines and complete detailed research can be tough. But with a skilled writer, the wait’s worth it.  All that texture, so many facets to make not for one reading, but for multiple re-reads…(sorry, my mouth is watering at the prospect, and I can’t even eat books.)

From the other side of the sales-table, it’s probably really tough to make a living from slow-development storycrafting. I’m not sure how many publishers/agents/authors are willing to wait out the process, but I’m grateful for the ones who do. For all the slow production, as a reader, I’m more likely to end up buying multiple copies to share with friends and family.

Let’s face it, though, sometimes we need a quick fix. We know books produced quickly aren’t likely to rival the heirloom flavor for longevity. But they’re right here, right now, feeding the need for  the next installment of a story that’s left us all breathless.

This has a quick payoff for the producers, if it’s a good book. But re-readability brings a lot of questions. A story written quickly has a lot of energy to it—-power that doesn’t get edited out with endless revisions—-but there’s more room for error.

Plenty Good Room On the Shelf

For good storytelling, heirloom or commercial, for making a living or becoming a craftsman, I’m willing to keep a number of both varieties circulating through my world.

And, heck, I’m definitely keeping an eye out for a good price on those heirloom vegetables and fruits during this rich late-summer season.

As a writer, I’m trending toward being more of an heirloom-style writer. HOWEVER, I’m also working to develop the flexibility and engage some faster-paced-to-the-finish storytelling.

You know, develop some microwave popcorn skills to go with the all-day-multi-process gourmet wordsmithing going on in the Tower of Awesome Officeness.

We’ve all got appetites to feed, and different kinds of stories to write and read. So how ‘bout keeping some variety in them ‘maters?

Let’s get cooking—-er—-“book”-ing!

Om-nomnomnom

Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae via Compfight cc

Elizabeth Ellen Everson