Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to be a Slow Writer

This is the last installment of my little NaNo taught me series. We’ve already talked about why skipping scenes isn’t a bad thing and why it’s okay to write a terrible first chapter in spite of all the pressure to write a perfect one.

Today’s topic may seem counterintuitive. Can you even call yourself a writer if you only type 500 words an hour? How will your novel ever be finished if your a slow writer?

My answer is, you have to start somewhere.

My first year doing NaNo I thought writing 50,000 words in a month was impossible. I’d never written 50,000 words on a single project in my life. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of Mount Everest every day I reached 1,667 (which is how much you need to write a day to reach 50,000 words in a month). And if I happened to go 200 words over…I was freaking Wonder Woman!

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Fast forward three more years of NaNo and writing 1,667 words is no longer a challenge. That’s what I do on an off day. This year of NaNo I wrote 2,000 to 3,000 words most days. There were a few days I really nailed it and wrote 5,000 words. I actually finished NaNo on November 21, which was 9 days early.

Just to show you the amount of words I put out when I first started, here is a shot of the excel spread sheet I used to keep track of the words I wrote for a story I was working on in 2015. This wasn’t for NaNo (I don’t have a spread sheet for my first NaNo), but a project I started a few months after. From the small numbers and many skipped days, you can see why it was such a big accomplishment that I finished 50,000 words in a month.

Feb 2015

Two years ago, I only wrote 12,000 in a month. Now I can write that amount in a week.

Nov. 2017

It’s okay if you feel like a a snail slushing through mud could write a book faster. That’s how I felt when I first started, but if you keep writing you’ll build speed.

As great as speeding up my words per week is, the best thing doing NaNo taught me wasn’t how to put words down faster. It was continuing to write after NaNo was finished.

After my first year, the moment November was over I didn’t write a thing (besides blog posts of course). Two months went by before I decided to start another project like that. I’d ran my marathon. It was time for lounging on the couch with chips and dip.

What I learned from the last four years of doing NaNo was that you don’t just write seriously during November. The best way to finish your work in progress isn’t to have a super power of typing out 1,000 words in 30 minutes, but to keep writing continuously. Making writing part of your routine isn’t just something to do during November, but all year long. Keep the writing spirit as enthusiastically as Buddy keeps the Christmas spirit. 😉

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You may start out only writing 100 words a day, but if you keep at it you’ll find your words-per-day slowing increasing. Even if they don’t (which is as impossible as a weightlifter not gaining strength after dedicating themselves to training every day) you’ll still be farther along then you would have if you only got serious about writing one month a year.

Don’t be discouraged because you don’t write as fast as you would like to. You have to start somewhere. The more you do it, the better you will get.

I still consider myself a slow writer. I’ll never be Brandon Sanderson and write 300,000 in a year. But slow writers who keep writing will put out a lot more books than a fast writer who doesn’t write consistently.

No one said you had to be faster than a snail through mud. You just have to have the guts to keep writing.

 

 

NaNoWriMo taught me it's okay to be a slow writer

 

Do you consider yourself to be a slow writer? What’s the most you’ve written in a day? If you want to pick up your speed, you should head over to an amazing little site I discovered called 4thewords.com. You get to fight monsters by word count. It’s super fun! I wrote 1,000 words in 45 minutes because of this site. 🙂

 

Other posts in this series:

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Skip Scenes

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

All the writing advice says your first chapter has to be perfect. It has to draw the reader in from the first line, introduce the main character and antagonist, give a feeling of the story setting and tone, give the main character’s goal, and ignite some conflict. And while you’re doing all that, you better not bore the reader for even a second or they’ll put your book down and never discover that twist you put in chapter 10 that would have showed them what a brilliant writer you are.

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Whew, sounds like a lot doesn’t it? That’s because it is a lot. So much rides on the first chapter that it makes us freak out when we go to write it.

We spend forty minutes trying to make that first line perfect. By the time we’re done with that, we’re ready to quit (especially if we are writing during NaNoWriMo and have a daily word-count goal to meet). We’re having trouble writing one line. How are we going to write a whole chapter and after that a whole book?

The beauty of NaNo is that it forces you to keep writing even if your writing is crappy. There’s just too much to cram into a first chapter for you to get everything on the checklist the first time around. That’s what the second and third drafts are for.

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The challenge is remembering that as you write that first draft of the beginning chapter. Especially if you’ve written a book before.

Why? Wouldn’t writing a book before make it easier to start another one?

You would think so, but I actually found it harder to be satisfied with the beginning of my story this time around than when I was writing The Hashna Stone this time last year. Maybe it was because I’d spent a lot more time discovering the world and characters of my first story so it was easier to get into it from the first chapter. Maybe it was because it’s been a whole year since I’ve written a first chapter and I’ve forgotten how messy they can be.

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It probably had something to do with the fact that I decided to write a fantasy romance and am completely out of my element. 😉

Whatever the reason, I couldn’t get the chapter to come together at all. The whole thing ended up being a list of everything a first chapter shouldn’t have. I didn’t describe what the main character looked like. I spent paragraphs describing her sisters. There wasn’t much actually happening in the chapter. A good 2,000 to 3,000 words (which was half the chapter) was the main character’s thoughts. And I did a lot of telling when I should have been showing.

But guess what? I’m glad I did it.

Yep, you heard me right. My first chapter was a total disaster and I don’t regret it at all.

 

Once the first chapter was out of the way, I could get on with the rest of the story (which I like to think is better than the first chapter). And once I got on with the rest of the story, I could discover things about it that I would need to foreshadow in the first chapter.

The thing is, I could have rewritten the first chapter 7 times and never gotten it to the point it needed to be if I never wrote to the end. I don’t know if this is a writing rule, but it’s nice when the beginning of a story foreshadows the end or having the end in someway mirror the beginning.

A simple example of this is in a short story (more like flash fiction I guess) that I wrote a few years ago very creatively called Red.

The first lines:

Red–the color of roses, the color of love. It was also the color of danger.  I didn’t see the danger though. 

The last lines:

Red is the color of roses. It is also the color of lies. My color is no longer red.

For a novel-length story, you might not want to have such blatant foreshadowing of what would happen in the story or such exact mirroring in the first and last lines, but you get my meaning.

Sometimes you can’t write the first chapter until you’ve written the last. And to get to the end, you have to write the beginning. Even if it’s terrible.

NaNoWriMo taught me it's okay to write a terrible first draft

Next week we’ll be talking about slow writers. Last week was about skipping scenes, and if you haven’t read it already, you should. It was a pretty good post if I do say so myself. 😛

What do find to be the hardest part of your story to write? Beginning, middle, or end? In my first draft, it’s always the end. I never really know what’s going to happen. 😀

 

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s okay to Skip Scenes

Okay, so I have completed NaNoWriMo before, but even if I’m not a newbie I still learned a few things. I thought I’d share those things in a post, but I had so much to say about what I learned that the post turned into three (or maybe I just didn’t want to come up with more ideas to write about for the next few weeks 😛 ).

The next two post will be about writing terrible first chapters and being a slow writer, but today’s is about (I bet you’ll never guess) skipping scenes while writing your first draft.

Should we skip the scenes that are giving us trouble or will the writing police come to our door and take away our manuscript for reckless writing?

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s okay skip scenes.

Don’t feel like you have to write every single scene out if it isn’t coming to you. Some scenes play out in your head as clearly as if it were on an HD 40-inch flat screen TV and you can write every detail and won’t need to change much in the second draft. Other scenes are on an old black and white televisions set with a crooked antenna and there isn’t much coming through but static.

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Don’t feel like you have to sit there for an hour watching static. You could try to pound out a full 3,000 word scene and become frustrated when it turns into a repeat of itself every 400 words because you keep rewriting the beginning, or worse, a blank page because you just can’t seem to picture what the characters do at this point.

Or you could simply skip it.

But isn’t that cheating? How will my novel ever be finished if I don’t write anything?

I’m not advising to do this for ever scene that gives you a little trouble. Sometimes you do need to wade through the static until the picture becomes clear, but I’ve found that it can be counterproductive to try to force a scene to happen that just isn’t ready yet.

When I’m writing a story, I have five or six crystal-clear scenes. They’re usually the scenes that started the story and get me excited to write in the first place. Like J.K. Rowling’s image of a little black-haired boy on a train started the Harry Potter series.

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The majority of scenes are a little foggy, but become clearer as I write them. They are a bit like those scratchcards you have scratch off to see if you win. It takes some work to uncover, but the scene is there.

Then there are the blanks. Scenes, that no matter how hard you try, remain blank in you head. For me, these scenes always happen at the end of my story. For The Hashna Stone, it was all the scenes in last two chapters or so. In my outline they were something like, “Everything is explained. The end.”

In the story I wrote for NaNo this year I knew how the very last scene would go, but I didn’t have a clue what the proceeding three or so scenes would be. I assumed that once I got to those scenes in the first draft they would come as they did for The Hashna Stone.

They didn’t.

I typed a few lines. Deleted them. Stared out the window. Typed a few more lines. Decided I didn’t like them but couldn’t delete them because I would never reach my NaNo word-count goal like that.

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Finally, I wrote an explanation of what might happen in that chapter instead of trying to write the scenes out.

I didn’t write out a conversation:

“Why are you always burning my grilled cheese sandwiches?” Bob asked. 

“How I’m I supposed to make grilled cheese and mop up the mess that your muddy boots left all over the floor?” Marsha was really sick of him blaming things on her that wasn’t her fault. 

Instead, I wrote:

“They had a fight about her burning the grilled cheese. Marsha feels annoyed that he keeps making a big deal out of it and that it isn’t her fault.”

That way I can move on to a scene that I can actually rack up some words on instead of just staring at a blank page.

Sometimes a scene isn’t working because you don’t know the characters well enough, or because there are some things you’ll add to your story in the second draft that will be built on in that scene.

don't know your characters...who are you?

Say I was trying to write the scene above, and I knew that I needed Bob and Marsha to fight and that Marsha would feel unfairly blamed, but didn’t know why Marsh would feel that it wasn’t here fault.

I could try to force the scene and write something silly about how Marsha wanted Bob to make his own grilled cheese sandwich or that she hated grilled cheese and didn’t care how it turned out.

Or I could write a line about what I need to happen, then in the second draft when I discover that Marsha is a clean freak whose requests for Bob to take off his muddy boots are always ignored, I can write clear scene now that I know the motivation behind the action. Even though it isn’t urgent to mop up some mud, Marsha resents Bob’s negligence enough that she chooses to clean the floor over cooking for Bob. If he doesn’t care about her wishes, why should she care about his?

Suddenly this scene comes to life and what was stiff actions and robotic dialogue becomes authentic.

Some scenes just aren’t ready to be written in the first draft, and that’s okay.

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It's okay to skip scenes

 

How did your NaNoWriMo projects come along? Did you ever skip some scenes in your first draft and regret it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Other Post in this series: 

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to be a Slow Writer

 

I Really Shouldn’t do NaNoWriMo this Year, but it’s so Addicting

Today is a very special day. November first marks the beginning of days filled with typing frenzies, word-count goals, and long nights in front of the computer hammering out the next scene in your story.

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time again. Time for writers around the world to quite procrastinating and actually, well, write.

I’ve participated for the last four years but this year I questioned if I was going to do it or not. For the previous years NaNo came at the perfect time. I had either just finished up a project or not working on anything so I could start a fresh draft of a story, which is perfect for the seat-of-you-pants, quantity-over-quality style so prevalent in NaNo.

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This time around however, I was working on the fourth draft of my story and didn’t want to start something new and time consuming that would distract me from working on the revisions.

But those blasted “Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo?” emails kept coming in my inbox and making me feel like I was missing out. So I fell for the bate and visited my NaNo page, and all the nostalgia of previous years came rushing back.

I simply could NOT miss out on all the panic, stressing over word counts, and feeling like Thanksgiving is a waste of  precious writing time that comes with writing a novel in a month.

So just a few days ago, I decided to give writing a novel I haven’t even slightly planned out. Not even in my head.

I’ve never done this before, so it could be the biggest disaster, but I really couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to reach that 50,000 words this month.

For the rest of the month, I won’t be following the normal schedule. Instead, I’ll be posting every week about something I learned while doing NaNo last year. Hopefully, these posts will motivate you to finish if you’ve decided to do it this year and inspire you to keep working on your writing project whether you are doing NaNo or not.

Wish me luck! And good luck to all of you doing NaNo this year!

Getting Past Week Two Doldrums of NaNoWriMo

I know I said I was taking this month off from blogging to focus on NaNo, but it’s week two and you know what that means: writing doldrums. The excitement of week one has faded but you’re too far from the end to find the motivation to push yourself.

So the doubt rolls in and you wonder if you should have tried this writing-a-novel-in-a-month thing. You could be eating ice cream and binge-reading novels that other people have already put in the hard work to create. You decide that you never should started this dang novel and you are going to quit.

Well, I’m here to tell you don’t. Don’t give up on your novel just because it isn’t new and shiny anymore. You started this because you have a story to tell. Because you’ve daydreamed about one day writing a book, and finally decided that this was the year you’d actually do it. Unless you’re doing this because of a dare. In that case, go ahead and quit. Dares don’t turn out well.

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If you’ve committed to finishing this novel, then you should stick with it (pun intended :P).

“But, I’m way behind on my word count. And my writing sucks! I just can’t find the motivation.”

Everyone has had those thoughts at least a dozen times during NaNo. You’re not alone. We all fall behind in our daily word count goal. We all write things during our first drafts that we’re pretty sure an ape with a crayon could write better. And we ALL have days when we don’t feel motivated.

This is my fourth time doing NaNo and I still face those things (though my lack of motivation usually happens at the beginning of the third week…giving myself a pep talk early 😉 ). There are plenty of sections in my writing that I know will have to be completely rewritten, even while  I’m writing it, and there are some days where I fall into bed without writing a single word.

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But guess what? I wake up and write the next day. Because if you keep writing–even when what you put down is a mess, even if you fall behind on word count, and especially when you don’t have the motivation–it will get easier.

You won’t stop writing messy first drafts; It’s part of the process. You will, however, stop judging yourself so harshly for the mess your first draft seems to be in. You’ll realize that, just like all creative processes, it goes through a stage where it seem like a kid playing with finger paint. You are throwing in ingredients for  a cake. You are sketching an outline for a drawing. You are smearing on paint for background that will be a painting once you come back and add in the details. Don’t sweat the small stuff now. Just get the words on the paper.

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“When writing a first draft,  I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.”–― Shannon Hale

You probably won’t stop falling behind on your word count goal. I’ve never had a thirty-day streak where I reached 1,667 words every single day. Some days I write 2,500. Some days I only got to 100, or didn’t write at all. That’s alright. We aren’t robots programed to write a certain amount everyday no matter what. Sick days happen. Working overtime happens. Staring at a blank page while your mind frantically yells, “Write something! You have to leave for work in ten minutes!” happens.

But you know what also happens? Days where scenes come alive in your mind and you not only get in double your word-count goal, but you enjoy every minute of it. But you’ll never have those perfect days if you let the bad days keep you from sitting down to write again.

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Which brings me to my next one of your concerns…Motivation.

Waiting for motivation to come up behind you, wrap you in its arms, and drag you to your writing chair is a terrible way to get your novel finished. You are only going to motivated 20% of the time. The other 80%, you have to write anyway. The more you show up to write even when you don’t feel like it, the more you will feel like it.

It’s sort of like eating a cookie. You take one bite and you want another. Take a second bite and you really want just one more. Take a third bite…oops did I just eat the whole thing?

And that’s how you finish NaNoWriMo, my friends: one bite of cookie at a time. (And you don’t even have to count the calories 😉 )

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I hoped this helped! I’d love to know how your NaNo projects going. Did you get in a bit of a slump this week? Or are you still putting those words out like a NaNo pro?

See you at the end, Epic Dreamers!

 

 

What Makes a Story Great? (Part 3)

Hello Epic Dreamers!

Today is the last in a series of posts that answers the question “what makes a story great?” I asked myself this question because I’m currently working on my first book and I’m sharing the answers I came up with because I know all you NaNoWriMo-ers out there are asking yourself the same question.

We’ve already covered characters in part 1 and dialogue, twists, and tragedies in part 2. I saved today’s topic for last because I had a lot to say about it. 😀

Here’s the last item I’ve put on the list of things that make stories great.

 

Make ’em laugh

All of my favorite books have this in common; they made me laugh. What it is that makes people laugh is a bit tricky to explain. I don’t know about you, but I seldom whip out a pen the moment I start laughing and start analyzing why I found what just happened funny.

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But since I’m writing this post, I suppose I better start. I’ll see you next week when I’ve figured it out! Until then, leave me a lot of funny comments so I have something to analyze.

Ok, I’m not really going to leave you hanging like that. But admit it, while you may not have actually laughed out loud, those last two lines did cause your lips to curve upwards just a bit.

Why?

Because it was unexpected. No one expects a blog writer to open up a topic for discussion, then stop before they’ve given an answer. And they definitely don’t expect for them to leave in the middle of the post.

There’s just something funny about people doing or saying unexpected things. Being caught off-guard isn’t just funny when it happens to us, but when we watch it happen to characters.

Take this little scene from one of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books. One of the characters, Kelsier, is known for his daring stunts and his ability to pull off impossible acts. He just finished destroying something so untouchable that it shocks even those that know him best.

 

Ham: Where were you? We’ve been worried sick that you were out doing something…well, stupid.
Breeze: Actually, we took it for granted that you were doing something stupid. We’ve just been wondering how stupid this particular event would turn out to be. So, what is it? Did you assassinate the lord prelan? Slaughter dozens of noblemen? Steal the cloak off the Lord Ruler’s own back?
Kelsier: I destroyed the Pits of Hathsin.
stunned silence
Breeze: You know, you’d think that by now we’d have learned not to underestimate him.

 

We also find absurdities funny. It’s absurd that someone should write an intro promising certain information to be delivered, then in the middle of delivering it say, “Oh, terribly sorry but I actually can’t give you this information right now. I’ll be back next week when I have it figured out.”

Say I had a character, a ten-year-old boy, who admires the local shepherd. He’s watched this shepherd herding his sheep like a general leading his soldiers and watching over them as diligently as a palace guard watching over the king. The boy promises himself that one day, he’ll watch over a herd of his own sheep just as nobly. Then one day, he finds a sheep that wandered off. Now is his chance to prove himself, so he eagerly walks toward the sheep ready to heroically lead it back to the flock.

The problem is, every time he takes a step toward the sheep it runs in the opposite direction. Didn’t the silly sheep know he was trying to help? Not being able to figure out why the sheep wouldn’t let him approach it, the boy finally gives up and stands back watching the sheep. He turns his head sideways to look at his pet snake, drooped over his shoulders and says, “I guess that dumb sheep just doesn’t know what’s good for him.”

The situation is funny because it never occurs to the boy that his pet snake would be threatening to a sheep.

Ridiculousness is funny. I guess our senses of humor haven’t matured much since we were two and thought putting underwear on our heads was hilarious.

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Misunderstandings are also a way to add humor to a story.

Say character A and character B are talking about a subject and they both think they’re talking about the same thing when they actually aren’t. It’s entertaining to watch the two go back and forth getting more and more confused until they finally discover that neither one was talking about the same thing. Or even funnier if they don’t.

This sketch is a perfect example.

 

Great right?

In this example, the viewer (which would be the reader in our case) knows that the characters are operating under a misunderstanding but it can be just as funny to keep readers in the dark and have them believe the same thing the character does for part of a scene.

I did this with my short story Tea where the view-point character had a false understanding of what a certain expression meant and got very worked up about it. Readers were sympathetic to his outrage, until he found out that the expression didn’t mean what he thought. It was funny to watch him deflate and quickly try to save face.

 

Well, that’s the end of our little discovery on what makes a story great. Hopefully these post have been helpful to you as you prepare to write a novel in a month. (What’s wrong with you, you crazy person?!)

There are so many things that go into creating a good story, so I know I didn’t cover them all. This list was just what I noticed in books that I love.

If you have any to add that you think makes a story great, please let me know in the comments. I love hearing your thoughts! 

Oh, and I’m one of the crazy people doing NaNo next month, so if you’re looking for a writing buddy I’d be glad to add you. My username is invisibleworld.

See ya there!

Until then, keep dreaming Epic Dreamers!

***(FYI, for the month of November I will be taking a sabbatical from blogging to reflect on nuances between the plethora of blogs out there. Actually, I’ll be busy bemoaning my lack of sleep due to a behemoth word-count goal. 😛 )

(FYI again…I will be tweeting comics, memes, and encouragements to get you through this month of insanity…can’t take a sabbatical from Twitter 😀 )

 

Twitter_bird_iconThis little blue bird will take you to my Twitter page where it will continuously feed you random lines about writing, blogging, and the world inside my head.

 

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What Makes a Story Great? (Part 1)

What makes a good book? You know, the one you can’t put down. The one you tell all your friends about. The one that get’s you fired because it sucked you into its world and staying up to find the missing key so the munchkins could unlock the vortex and finally return home was much more important than getting some sleep and getting up when your alarm went off.

What makes a story that good?

As most of you know, I’ve started writing my first book, so the answer to this question is especially pertinent to me right now. I want to create a great story that will sweep you readers off your feet and carry you away on the grandest adventure you’ve been on.

Or at least not put you to sleep. 😉

Since this is a question some of you may be asking too with NaNoWriMo coming up next month, I thought I’d share my answers.

For the next three post, I’m going to list some things that I’ve noticed some of my favorite books have in common. We’ll go over dialogue, twists, tragedies, and humor.  But for today, I’m just going to focus on characters.

Great books have…

 

An engaging protagonist

This almost goes without saying. Of course the main character needs to be likable and proactive. This is the person readers will spend the most time with so if they are as boring as watching paint dry while listening to a lecture on HTML coding people aren’t going to read it no matter how exciting the plot.

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What is it exactly that makes a character engaging?

Give them fun and likable characteristics, such as being smart, brave, loyal, or compassionate. But it’s also important to give them some flaws. Maybe they are selfish, arrogant, or bossy. Everyone has flaws, and if the main character lacks them they seem unreal and unrelatable. As long as their good qualities outshine their bad or they are shown overcoming their flaws, readers can forgive their shortcomings.

Engaging characters, well, engage. They do stuff. They don’t have to be a catalyst for everything that happens in the story, but they don’t sit back and let everyone else make all the decisions. Yes, there will be things that happen to them. Dorothy didn’t choose to be caught in a tornado and have her house fall on a witch. Frodo didn’t choose for his uncle to give him a powerful but destructive ring. Just like in life, things will happen to the protagonist that they have no control over, but they can still be proactive in how they respond to these events. What if Dorothy decided following the yellow-brick road would be too difficult and stayed with the munchkins? What if Frodo didn’t volunteer to take the ring to Mordor? Not only would the characters be boring but there wouldn’t be much of a story.

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Memorable supporting characters

We’ve all read books with characters flatter than pancakes, and unlike pancakes we don’t like them. Supporting characters are a great way to spice up a story. Give them colorful personalities. Make them opposites from each other. Give one of them opposing views as the main character and watch sparks fly. It’s dull to have characters that agree with everything the protagonist says and does. People don’t all think alike in real life. Why should they in a book?

Another thing to give characters to make sure that they are memorable is dichotomy.  Dichotomy as explained by the dictionary is “a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.” If you want your characters to be dichotomous, give them something that is totally unexpected and is opposite what the rest of their personality traits are.

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Think of Long John Silver in Treasure Island. He is a peg-legged, bloodthirsty, treasure-hunting pirate. His affection for Jim Hawkins doesn’t seem to fit with his cutthroat pirate personality, but it’s this is what makes Long John Silver so memorable.

Dichotomous characters don’t have to be as dramatic as Long John. Maybe it’s someone who has to keep everything in their house immaculate, but loves mudding. Maybe it’s someone who hardly talks at all, but once they get on stage they transform into an eloquent speaker. Maybe they hate animals but continue taking care of a dog because it was their mother’s who passed away.

Which leads me to the third thing that makes characters memorable: secrets.

Who doesn’t like a good secret?

Hiding something in a character’s past will make them intriguing and unforgettable. And just like in life, the best secrets are the ones you have to wait a while to learn. If a character did hate animals but continued taking care of a dog, don’t tell readers right away that it’s because it is his deceased mother’s. Let them wonder for a while. It makes the character more interesting.

And it’s just fun for authors to torture readers.

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Coming up with characters for a story is one of my favorite parts of writing and it’s probably because I love exploring all the character’s differences, personality, and quirks.

So what do you find makes characters interesting? Who are some of your favorite characters from books you’ve read (or movies for all you non-readers out there 😛 )? 

I’ll be back next week with some more elements that make a story great. Until next time! Keep dreaming Epic Dreamers!

 Part 2

 

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Katniss, Tris, and Frodo Make You Smarter

Jane Austen Quote Pride and Prejudice No Pleasure in a Good Novel Digital Download for Iron on Transfer Fabric Pillow Tea Towel DT539. $1.00, via Etsy.:

I don’t like calling people stupid, but…  😉

I can’t help but love this quote.  Reading books may seem like nothing but a hobby or that thing that socially awkward people do (don’t act all cool and try to pretend that you aren’t…I see right through that act 😉 ), but reading is actually making you smarter.

I don’t just mean if you read biographies and encyclopedias for fun.  Reading plain old fiction makes you smarter too.  (Wait, did I just call fiction plain?  Please forgive me.)

(Can’t resist me now can you?  Silly…that isn’t even me.  It’s my sister.)

Here’s how it works.

Have you ever read a book where you were so enthralled with the story that you felt like everything was happening to you?  You were  shooting arrows with Katniss, jumping trains with Tris, and throwing the ring into Mount Doom with Frodo.

Reason: your brain actually believes that you have experienced it.

When we read, our brain does not make a real distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it. Whether reading or experiencing it, the same neurological regions are stimulated.

Of course there is some part of our brain that recognizes that this is not actually happening to us.  Otherwise, we would all be terrified to read. I mean, do we actually want to live through the Hunger Games?

(Skipping second breakfast is enough hunger for me. I bet you can guess which fandom world I decided to go in.)

But the point is,  there is a huge part of us that experiences the story in the same way the characters do. Their heart is beating, our heart speeds up.  They get in an argument.  We stand up for them in our head (or out loud…I won’t judge).  They lose someone they love.  We cry.

Lets face it. These stories are real to us.

But how does thinking things are real that aren’t real make us smarter?  Isn’t that called schizophrenia?

Stories makes us smarter because we can experience things through fiction that we never could in our own lives, giving us a vast amount of knowledge we wouldn’t otherwise have. Through stories we learn that sometimes we have to sacrifice ourselves for those we love (Katniss), sometimes we have to do what we think is right for our lives even if everyone is against it (Tris), and sometimes even the smallest of us can do things that change the world (Frodo).

Fiction teaches us that if we work together we can accomplish great things.  It  shows us that love is greater than wealth and forgiveness better than revenge.  It inspirers us to be better people and do greater things.

Without books and the characters in them, we would be close-minded little people who trudge through our daily lives never able to grasp concepts like hope, love, faithfulness, compassion, and sacrifice.

Stories call us to be better people and help us understand the world a little better.  Most of all, it teaches us to be empathetic towards others.

Being “smart” can mean a lot of things, but the most important thing you can spend brain power on is understanding and helping other people.

So if you’re reading (or writing) a book right now, I’d say you’re pretty smart.  🙂

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This post is part of

Operation Inspiration

Where I inspire you to write, share what inspires me to write, and well just fill your day with inspiration.  🙂

 

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