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Monday, April 23, 2018

Creating Memorable Characters

Inventing Characters

First, we hear characters:

Some of my early childhood memories involved piglets, and toes. Remember, ‘This little piggy went to market and this little piggy stayed home? This little piggy had roast beef and this little piggy had none? Finally, this little piggy cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

Then there were the three pigs who lived in a straw house, that was blown down by the huffing and puffing wolf. I loved that story but can’t remember if they even had names. I always thought it was a Grimm fairy tale, but after searching for the author’s name, there appears to be a dispute. Seems understandable, since it is a story that has survived the oral tradition of the ages. Who wrote it down first?
Shy at first, this one approached me a minute later.

Second, we see characters in movies and on television:

There was Porky Pig. He hung out with Bugs Bunny in the cartoons. So cute.  

How about the clever pig, Babe? He corralled the sheep better than the dogs.

Third, we read about characters:

Trying to tell me something at the local dairy.
Wilbur is a ‘Terrific Pig” according to Charlotte, in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

Are you a fan of the more recent Peppa the Pig?

How about Piglet?

Remember the intelligent Squealer from George Orwell’s Animal Farm who becomes the supervisor on the farm? After all, “All Animals Are Equal / But Some Are More Equal Than Others."
I'm not sure if this mama is pregnant or out of shape. 

Last, we create our own characters:

As writers, we can make characters do, or say, anything we want them to do or say. It is a power unlike any other. First, we make up their personality. We usually start with the hero, which is the main character, also called a protagonist. Then, we create supporting characters and minor characters. We also create an antagonist, or the bad guy. Usually, the antagonist makes the protagonist look good.

When creating characters, we might ask ourselves some of these questions:

Are they cuter than newborn pigs?

How do they look? Are they ugly on the inside and the outside?

 Are they mysterious and if so, what made them that way?

 Is there some sort of psychological problem that’s going to bubble to the surface? Are they annoying? Do they have unusual peccadilloes or bizarre fetishes?

 Are they sweet, gentle and impressionable?

Should we get rid of them half way through the book? How should we get rid of them?

Will they be slaughtered? Will they leave a legacy?

Do they have character flaws?
What are the obstacles they must face? Will they triumph when faced with adversity?

How do we name them? Someone once suggested phone books, but no one uses those anymore. I prefer making names up as I go along, and the baby naming sites on the internet.
(Here's a tip I've never used, but want to someday: At the end of foreign made films, the credits go on and on with fascinating names. Combining the first name from one, with the last name of another, could make a great character name.)


It’s a lot of fun, and best if you can pretend to be each character as you write. Wear a cowboy hat while writing a Western, or  something sexy while working on your romance novel. Maybe oink a little when writing anthropomorphic farm scenes. You think I’m kidding, but reading your dialogue out loud makes it sound realistic. And if you’ve ever acted in local theater, or in high school plays, your method acting can come in handy. Whether it’s a children’s book or science fiction, your characters need to have emotions to keep  readers interested.

Let’s Meet!

This upcoming Saturday morning, 9:30-11:30, this little piggy, meaning me, will be part of a panel discussion at the Hemet Library, which of course is located in Hemet, California. Here's a link. We’ll be discussing tips on crafting compelling characters.  I hope to see you there.

Have any tips for creating great characters? 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

30 Tongue in Cheek Phases of Writing a Book

 Phases of Writing a Book
Warning: Not every writer goes through all these stages. I’ve survived most of them, but I’m only at number 21. If I don't focus, it's easy to be derailed. 
Anyway, if you tend to have martyr tendencies, you can power through this list too! Good luck. Oh, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I'm in a jolly phase, because I see the light.

1.       Excitement( short-lived)
2.       Research--May result in  pain near frontal lobe
3.       Doubt—Sugar surges--donut cravings.
4.       Extraordinary dog walking. Fetch? Of course.
5.       Anger.Tissues and tears phase
6.       Depression/Overthinking
7.       Burning of sage
8.       Critique group jitters
9.       Bargaining/Negotiating with God
10.   The Shakes (Possibly from massive amounts of coffee)
11.   More research and napping
12.   Grammar check shock
13.   Mystic chanting and mumbling of prayers
14.   Worry. Nail biting-hair loss
15.   Editing/proofing

Small notes to remind me where I left off.

16.   Obsessive house cleaning or moving furniture around-Tub scrubbing
17.   Shopping for rope or shoes
18.   Gambling/Alcohol/Drugs
19.   Laundry/Compulsive vacuuming/ironing
20.   Gardening/Manic weed pulling
21.   Pin light at end of tunnel jollies
22.   Distribution concerns/Extra food intake
23.   Loves me—Loves me not—Beta readers
24.   Gaming, crocheting or redecorating as a distraction
25.   Marketing worries/ Fasting-diet-copious amounts of water
26.   More editing. Arguments with self, editor and characters
27.   Acceptance-Hope. Blog updating
28.   Final Draft/ Removing was and exclamation points!
29.   The query letter and Fifty shaded, mysterious steps to publishing
30.   The Cover reveal party. Hooray!

-Signed, your exhausted friend, Eve