With Sojourn in Captivityset to go live April 1, I wanted to just to take a few moments to talk about why I’m so proud of it. As I thought about it, I realized I was essentially identifying reasons I think people should give the book a try. That’s where the name came from.
An alien main character: It’s always struck me as odd that there are so many scifi stories out there, but the main characters are always inevitably human. This made sense fifty years ago, when fiction still had a number of barriers to break, but I don’t see it now. In a generation where everyone is screaming for diversity, why aren’t there stories featuring truly alien characters. Yes, Elele has many human characteristics, but she’s obviously not human. This gave me so much to play with. It let me look at characters and events in a new way.
The anti-female lead: I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m not actually a fan of YA. With Repressed, I tried a few different plot paths, but the story was perfect Kaitlyn because she’s so much of a “YA” girl. Strong. Sassy. Intelligent. So with Sojourn, I was really attracted to the idea because I knew where Elele was, and (more awesomely) I know where she is in Images of Truth. Her development is what interested me. But this story doesn’t start with some plucky, sassy, whit-mouthed character. Don’t get me wrong; those characters are fun, and they, like all characters, have an audience. But that’s not Elele. Elele is the spoiled, Daddy’s-Little-Girl genius of her planet. She’s never had to work hard for a thing in her life, and she’s completely unprepared for the adventure that awaits her (especially in Images of Truth). That growth, that development of character really interested me. I wanted readers to see just how she started. This makes watching her grow into the character she becomes in Images all the more powerful in my opinion.
The world building: I’ve been working on this for a long time now, and I felt like it was time to start playing in this universe. It’s huge. This planet and how the aliens interact with it are really cool. If someone threw Avatar at me, I don’t know that I’d have a leg to stand on in a observational sense, but the themes and plot are unique. Did the movie influence me? Perhaps in a subconscious way, but I didn’t sit down determined to take those concepts. That said, yes, this is an alien race of beings who live in enormous trees. But that’s where, in my opinion, the similarity end. The culture and religion of the cast is every bit as interesting to work with as the magic system/biological mutation.
The first chapter: I’ve (arrogantly) always thought I’m a man who starts the story off in a fun way, but the chapters always sort of feel like stepping into water without being sure how deep it is. In this book, I chuck the reader into the deep end, and the result is an intense ride that I still enjoy even after umpteen drafts and proof readings. Now I’m just not smart enough to know my legal rights with KDP and other services, but I’m pretty sure a few-hundred words are authorized. On my Facebook page, I dared my friends to try the book and read the first chapter. I truly feel if that doesn’t hook you, then I probably need to reevaluate how effective I am at evaluating stories. I’m almost positive a whole chapter would get someone shouting at me, so I wanted to end this post with the first 300 words of the story. Like I do at any convention, I let a potential reader open and start reading. My heart is convinced that this is true: If I can get someone to read the first few pages, that person is going to end up reading the whole thing. With that said, I present to you the first few pages of Sojourn in Captivity.
The Monster Born of My Father
Fear causes me to tighten my grip on my father so much I’m not sure how he’s breathing. We’re one hour from Wieder, and I’m a hundred times more frightened than I was when we stepped aboard our transport flight north.
The rumbling engine and dim lights only add to my worries.
Why isn’t Father afraid? Why isn’t he terrified?
Achca’s faline, the ultraviolet pattern on his torso, flickers with nervousness. He clenches his fists, causing the dark skin of his knuckles to grow pale. He’s trying to be brave for our father.
I don’t want to be brave. I want to be comforted, and I want my brother to have comfort, too. I untangle an arm from Father so I can reach across the one-meter-wide aisle that separates my leather seat from Achca’s and grab my brother’s hand. After a moment, I’m not sure who’s gripping whom more tightly.
“All will be well,” Father says.
“I know, Father.” Achca pulls his hand away from mine, showing his nerves by fluttering his wings.
“How do you know?” I ask.
“You always want an explanation,” Achca says, impatiently.
“What good is my intelligence if I don’t use it to understand the universe?” Is he really going to argue with me now?
“I know,” Father says, interrupting what might have been my last argument with my brother before we both become monsters, “because I have faith in Adhol.”
And therein lies my problem. I wouldn’t be sitting here terrified if Adhol, our god, hadn’t summoned us for ascension. My father is the most faithful man on our home planet of Orlon. Anyone would be a distant second to him, but my desire to match his faith is overmatched by the fact that I don’t want to become a Var’lechen.
As usual, the book will be 99 cents from now until April 15, when it will go to it’s normal price of $2.99.
This project was actually a long time coming. It was originally going to be part of an anthology with the Slush Brain. When that fell through, I was left with a story I was still very proud of, so I decided to put it on the release schedule.
I wanted to push myself with this story, and I did. It’s based on drama, not action. It’s in first person, present tense. These are all things that are way out of my comfort zone. Not only did I grow as an author, I produced a story that I just can’t say enough about.
Here’s the official blurb:
Elele is about to meet her god. She’s about to be elevated to the highest evolved form of her species. Even as she prepares to step before the most powerful entity in the universe, she refuses to confess her secret. She doesn’t want to change.
However, the only thing worse than changing, would be failing to transform. Those who don’t evolve are regarded as Ketz, forsaken. Her faith demands she go through the ceremony, but she’s torn between her desire to keep the life she’s known, and what happens to those Seferam who don’t become Var’lechen.
When the ceremony begins, she’ll learn that she wasn’t the only member of her family with a secret. Elele must kneel before Adhol, but what happens after that will change how she sees her family, her role in the universe, and the being her planet has chosen to recognize as their god.
This book is essentially the prequel to a series I’m chipping away at called Perception of War. Before Oneiros Log’s deadline loomed, I was a considerable way through the discovery draft of the first book in the series, and I really can’t wait to get back to it.
I hope you’ll decide to give this a try. I’m always striving to deliver great content, and I hope this story is as wonderful to read as it was for me to write. If you’re interested, you can click the link above or right here.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Sojourn. I felt you all deserved an update. Sojourn was a project I jumped on when the other members of Slush Brain thought it’d be a great idea to work on an anthology together.
The truth is, it was a good idea. They’re all amazing authors, but that’s part of the problem. They’re busy indie authors with projects and deadlines all their own. While all of us love each other and still love the idea of putting something together when the stars align, it just isn’t happening anytime soon.
So what do I do with a novella I’ve already gotten ready to go? Easy, I release it on my own. That’s right, Sojourn in Despair is scheduled for release this November. I’m still incredibly proud of that story, and I hope you all come to love it as much as I do. I have huge plans for Elele and a few other members of that cast.
If you click any of the above links, you’ll be able to find more information, but let me give those who’re just hearing about this some information.
One of the larger sagas I have rooting around in my skull is a series called Perception of War. The series revolves around the crew of the Shepherd, a forward operating warship and the only ship conducting operations in the Var’lechen system. Each book will star a member of the crew. I was halfway through the first book in the series when the idea came about to work on a novella. Well, the first book in the series is huge, like several hundred thousand words. But while drafting that beast, I fell in love with another character, Elele. She’ll also have a book of her own in the saga, but this idea gave me a chance to set the scene for her in the saga. She’s not remotely who she’ll become, and there’s a reward in that for me.
This is sort of a prologue unique to that character. It’ll lead her from her confrontation with the god of her alien species all the way to the moment we see her in the first book, Images of Truth. Of the three great (as in large) sagas I have planned, Perception of War is the biggest. There is a timeline (or the outline of a timeline), but it’s my intent to visit this universe whenever the mood strikes. I’ll be sure to get the larger story done, so readers know how this galactic war begins, develops, and ends. However, All of these races, characters, locations and history is something I plan to explore whenever the mood strikes.
The story is already done. The cover is under development. I’m going to look into a map relevant to the journey happening in the book, but that’s only an idea at the moment. I’ll release the other parts of Bob first, but Sojourn will be out in the world by the end of 2018.
Again, I love this saga and this character in particular. I’m so excited to bring this story to you, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.
One wonderful thing about being an independent author is that it gives you creative control. I like control. (Mayhaps a little too much) That control allows me to share what I love with people I love. I’ve mentioned a few times that Collin, the artist who did the cover art for all versions of The Journals of Bob Drifter, was my best friend in junior high. He’s still a dear friend to this day. My brother in law did the chapter icons for Bob.
That’s why the art I’m going to show you is particularly special to me. As and instructor, I see a lot of talent come and go through the course. Some want to be artists. Some want to make movies. Others even want to be writers, and I pride myself on looking for opportunities to help them.
Not too long ago, I met a young man who I thought well of. He’d been posting art on his social media page, and I knew I needed chapter icons, and I can only work my brother in law so hard. I could have asked Jessica, who did the chapter icons for Caught, but I want to share opportunities with people.
Matt Reynolds is a motivated young man, and a former student of mine, I was all too happy to talk about my idea with. He was happy for the challenge. I paid him the same fee I paid Jessica per image, and now I’m proud to present the chapter icon for Elele, the main character from Sojourn in Captivity.
I first approached Matt in March of this year. As I said, I noticed he’d been posting some sort of new art on his social media page every day. I gave him two source images to use as inspiration, and he went to work. Three versions (and a total of five drafts) later, I have the image above to accompany the beginning of each chapter featuring Elele.
Elele is a Seferam, an alien race of the planet Orolon. To a human eye, Seferam all look pretty similar (if not identical). They’re black-skinned, with course black hair and large oval eyes. The thing is Seferam eyes are attuned differently to the electromagnetic spectrum (the same way Deer eyes are). They can see ultraviolet light. I came up with the idea while looking at some cool images of butterflies shot under UV light. That gave me the idea to have these creatures see that part of the spectrum. It’s how they identify one another.
Each Seferam has a unique pattern, called a Faline, on the front and back of their torso. The outer-most pattern (in this case the four teardrops you see) identifies one’s pod (or family). The inner-most pattern is unique to each Seferam. In this case, Elele has a seven-pedaled flower. Older Seferam (parents and grandparents) have more patterns between their family pattern and their individual pattern. Elele is a daughter, and she has no children, so she only has the two patterns. These patterns are based on fractal patterns I searched for and found visually appealing. I won’t share them because I found them online and was inspired by them, but I don’t own them or know who holds the rights.
Matt took those images and ran with them. I honestly love this image. I can’t thank him enough for putting in the work to create this, and I’m glad to give him credit as a work-for-hire artist.
Sojourn is finished by the way. The deadline for the other authors in the Slush Brain Anthology is Jan. 1, 2018. So you can expect Elele’s story to be out pretty soon that year. Please tell Matt what you think of the image. Young artists are amazing, and sometimes they just need a bit of exposure to get them the recognition they deserve.
Last weekend I received the feedback from my wonderful beta readers. Before I do anything else, I’d like to thank them. My deepest gratitude goes to:
Elizabeth Drake, Jenn Moss, C.L. Schneider, (The rest I’ll use first names only as they’re private citizens.) Ashley, and Alora. You all are amazing people and very busy, and it means so much to me that you took time out of your schedules and lives to provide this humble indie author some insight into the book. I didn’t imagine we’d have room for any sort of “acknowledgements” page, but eventually, I’ll be giving shoutouts to you and the alphas and editors. But today is for you wonderful betas because it gave me the idea for this blog.
The story writing and editing process is as unique as the author creating the story. I thought it’d be interesting for me to share with you what I look for from and in a beta reader.
What I ask of them:
I’ll do another post at some point on what I look for in an alpha reader, but the short version is I’m more demanding of them because I need my alphas to make sure I don’t look like a moron. My betas are there for me to be test readers. So what I did is send them my character analysis sheets and ask a few questions.
The character analysis sheet is just a term I made up to sound smart. All I do is ask the readers to rank the character, description, dialogue, world building, and exposition for me on a scale of 1 to then. I expand the “character” sliders to include sympathy, proactivity, competence, and power. This is how I review books; this is how I evaluate books, so this is how I like to receive feedback.
Then I ask what I feel the most important questions any author can ask the reader:
What do you think of the story as a whole?
What do you think about the main character (in this case Elele) at the beginning of the story?
What do you think of the main character at the end?
Would you want to read another story in which this character (and others) appear?
Then I invite the reader to add any thoughts they find relevant.
So I sent the book out to betas and gave them a few weeks (I try to let them have two days to read a single chapter or segment) to read the story. When I got the feedback, the first thing I did was thank them for their time. This is critical authors. These folks are reading your work, the least you can do is let them know what it means to have them offer their time.
Then I opened up a document and typed whatever comments they gave me. For those who quite frankly went the extra mile and sent back the document with notes in the copy, I saved those files to a folder.
I’d be very interested to see what others do via the comments below, but here’s what I do:
Respect everything they say. You’re going to hear feedback. You won’t like all of it. Heck, you might not like any of it. I turn my ego in before I open a document.
While everything each beta says is valuable, what I look for is overlap. What do they all love? What do they all hate? What do they all think? What trends do I see. This is why I tend to want between 10 and 20 betas. The bigger the sample size, the more likely you’ll have enough opinions to really help you sort things out.
I’ll peel back the onion a bit here. The number one bit of feedback I got from every single beta is, “The story starts too slowly. There’s too much information to swallow.” Or something to that effect. Here’s how feedback works in the photojournalism field. One person’s opinion is just one persons opinion, but if everybody who says anything says the same thing, that’s truth. They all wanted to start closer to the action. (And when I review Conflict and Suspense, I’ll talk about that a lot more).
So when the majority of the betas say the same thing, I trust that majority. But what do you do when there isn’t one?
Well, I sort of take the liberty to trust my own feelings. If it’s a mixed bag, I understand that people are going to like some things and hate others.
I put the bigger weight on the betas who fall within my target audience. They’re the ones who I care most about because they’re the ones I want to buy this story. Some of the beta readers I have here provided critical information, but they’re more secondary alphas than actual betas. I trust their options more in matters of style and craft.
So an example might be if one of my style and craft beta readers thinks the dialogue isn’t working, I trust that, because they’re experts. I do this even if my “main audience” betas gave my dialogue 10s. This works because if I improve the writing of the dialogue, the “main audience” betas are only going to like it more. I give those main audience more weight in terms of how they feel about the character and the plot.
An example might be YA themes. I’m not actually a fan of teen or YA books. I can appreciate them and respect them, but I don’t like some of the storytelling elements in those genres. So if one of my friends asks me to read a YA book, I read it, but I’m not going to tell them I don’t like this character of that character if I can tell it’s a genre bias. But if I sent a YA book to a 19-year-old, and she hates the character, then I’m real scared.
So that’s it. I look for overlap (what are they all saying or agreeing on). Then I give tie breakers depending on why I asked that person to beta read.
Armed with my feedback, I create a “revision plan” document in which I plan on going over each segment several times (one time per issue I annotate in my plan). Then I go over it again (another several times) for each document the betas sent me via the actual copy of the story.
Once I finish this draft, it’s off to my editor for a copy-edit, and then I send it out. How do you use beta feedback?
I want to say one more time how grateful I am to those beta readers who helped me out. I may not apply all of your changes, but everything you said was heard and noted. You’ve made me a better writer, and I can’t thank you enough for that.
For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve seen how happy I am to have completed the third draft to Sojourn in Captivity! I truly feel this is the best thing I’ve written so far (which I honestly hope to say each time I write something). Now that I’ve had an editor take a look at it, it’s time for what I call my Beta Draft. That means I need beta readers!
I’m sending out the call for any interested beta readers. I tend to like between 5-20 betas. In my mind, the more people who read it, the more feedback you get. The more feedback you get, the more certain you can be about certain aspects of the story. I’d like to send out the draft (31,000 words) Saturday, and I’d ask that you send your feedback (and a few very short questionnaires I have for each segment), by May 6. (That would mean you need to read at least a segment every other day.)
Sojourn in Captivity is a prequel, I guess it’s more of a novella now, but I’m calling it a short story, to my Perception of War space war science fiction/fantasy sequence. He’s an off-the-top-of-my-head blurb:
Elele’s course in life was altered when Adhol (her planet’s name for God) arrived three years ago. Her life remained relatively normal even though she couldn’t travel to the Gernis home planet of Welt, where she was supposed to study with the greatest mathematical minds in the galaxy. She’s still her father’s favorite child. She’s still gotten everything she’s ever wanted that was within her school’s or family’s power to give. That’s all about to change. Since Adhol’s arrival, he’s used his power to elevate her people from vestigial-winged, slender beings known as Seferam into the membrane-winged, monstrously sized Var’lechen. It’s supposed to be the greatest blessing a Seferam could ask for. It’s supposed to be when a Seferam evolves into a form that more closely resembles their god. There’s only one problem, Elele doesn’t want to transform. When she faces her god, she’ll discover that not only is her life about to change forever, but her family’s had secrets that she’ll have to come to understand before its too late.
I’d be honored if anyone cared to give it a read. Please reply below or send me an email if you’re interested.
I’ve been talking about my progress on this project since my first blog post. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate with some amazing authors in an anthology. I finished the discovery draft of Sojourn in Despair over the holidays, and I just wrapped up what I call the first draft.
What this means is it’s finished, and it’s in English. I feel very good about it, and I think the story itself is fantastic!
What’s next though is something big. I always try something different every time I write a project. I’ve always had AN alpha reader. Ben is my best friend and brother in law. He reads EVERYTHING I write (poor guy). But I expanded my alpha reader pool to a few others.
Alpha Readers to me have always been people I can go to with questions about concepts or ideas. I don’t know the first thing about a lot of things, so I find alpha readers who are knowledgable in some way about some aspect of my story. This story’s topics are: The Jewish religion, mathematics, and evolutionary theory.
That said, if there’s someone out there with a PHD in either math or evolutionary theory, I’d appreciate an email in that regard. I’d be overjoyed if someone with expertise in those areas could give this a glance and make sure I don’t look foolish on a scientific level. I have one alpha who’s looking at it for math, but no one to look at the science of this planet or its species.
As of now, I have five alpha readers. Each bring something unique and specific to the table. They’re all offering invaluable feedback that I’ll put to use in my second draft (the draft before it goes to the editor for developmental review). Two of those alphas are our very own Jenn Moss and Quintessential Editor. So if you’d head over to their sites, give them some likes, shares, and follows, I’d appreciate it as they’re REALLY helping me out.
I just wanted to share my joy at this most recently finished project before I start my next one (because that’s sort of what I do). What’s that you ask? The layout and design of The Journals of Bob Drifter so I can re-release that book at a lower price with another edit done. I’ll keep you all posted.
Thanks for checking in and all the support you’ve shown me. I hope you’ll all preorder Caught or snag a copy of it Jan. 28!
Character development is a fluid process for me. I consistently try new things and keep what I feel worked and get rid of what I don’t like. Sometimes I bring those things I don’t like back because as much as I don’t like them, they help me create more realistic, sympathetic characters.
I put a lot of thought into how to present this because of how fluid my process is. I thought about taking you through how I evolved and what I tried. I can do that if anyone is interested, but what I think anyone would use this for is to put what I know I’m going to do when I start writing my eight book (Sojourn is a short story and Elele is already developed).
Quintessential Editor covered some ground with hisblog about using dice to create characters. This comes in handy mostly because of the character sheets for me. I did this a few times. It worked, but I thought it was too time consuming, so I dropped the sheets. Now I’m brining them back because some books have WAY too much for me to track. I have word processing character sheets, and I may adapt those, but I need something that helps me track my characters, particularly physical attributes.
I also took full advantage of Brandon Sanderson’s online lecture about Character Creation. That helped me mostly as it came to plotting. (Note: Today, I’m talking about development. That way, I can talk about plotting later.) But it does give me a snapshot, and it helped me streamline (in my case too effectively) my character sheets.
My character sheets start as simple pages in a word processing document. They get larger as I start plotting the character.
A note on archetypes. I outlined Caught using archetypes. While I want to know the role my characters play in the book, what I found this ended up doing was make my characters too cookie cutter. They fit their role in the plot, but it made them plot devices and not characters. I think what I’ll do next time is add the archetypes to the character sheet, though this still scares me. (NOTE: As I publish this, I’ve again decided against it.) I’m a very literal, linear thinker, and I don’t want to force my characters in a direction they wouldn’t go just so they fit some standard archetype.
Where my ideas come from: I teach my students about this concept where a writer has an idea for a story. I got it from one of my sources we used to develop the course, Telling True Stories. They call it the glimmer moment. I exist in a constant state of glimmer infinity. I constantly have flashes of imagination or insight that I think would be amazing. I jot them down or commit them to memory (let the debate on memory begin here). When enough of those ideas arrive to formulate one consistent narrative, I know I have a story. The idea for Caught came to me when my mom told me about a nightmare she had had. (Am I a bad son?)
I mention that because sometimes the main character develops clearly in my mind. Sometimes they don’t. What I mean is I have a sense for the emotional description of the character, but not the physical one. When I see the character clearly in my mind, I don’t fight it. When it doesn’t matter, I let chance determine those characteristics. For Perception of War, the flip of a coin determined the gender of my character. A four-sided die determined his ethnicity and color. I’ll probably post a blog about this one day, but I think characters are people.
There are several fantastic stories out there where race, religion, and gender are arcs. When they aren’t I feel silly developing a white male character simply because I’m a white male. Sal, the main character in Caught is a protector and a Soldier. He was always a man in my imagination, but I’ll tell you frankly the majority of the service members I respect most happen to be women. It’s not a knock on one over the other, just a point I’m trying to work to. He was a man, because of the dynamic I wanted to create with a few other characters. He was white because my four-sided die said so. He’s from Philly because that’s where my finger landed on a map. When these traits matter, writers should take great care. They always have significance though because they’re parts of what make a person who he (Sal) is. None of those characteristics affected the plot, so I let chance decide because it’s fast, and in my mind, it’s the best way I have so far to make sure the diversity in my books comes anywhere near the diversity of life.
That brings me to character sheets. Like I said, I’m going to bring more elements in, but here’s Bob’s character sheet.
Bob Drifter : Robert Drifter
Light brown hair
Bob’s exactly what I named him. He’s a drifter. In personality as well as occupation. He’s accepted who and what he is, for now at least, because it’s all he’s known. He’s kind and takes it upon himself to be more of a guide than a conduit. Others in his field don’t take such measures, but a part of who Bob is demands a certain courtesy. He doesn’t remember anything at all about his life before his work. A part of him is curious, but, given his nature, he accepts things without much argument. Things are. Part of this stems from his belief that change isn’t possible for him.
Now take a look at Elele’s. This is her character sheet from Sojourn. Please know I’ve absolutely deleted a few spoilers, and that may cause some confusion, but I’d like people to read the book and be entertained by some of the twists. Note the differences between her character sheet and Bob’s:
(The trouble with Sefaram is that they all look essentially the same. Hair is a thing. But they’re very hard to tell apart unless you look at their Faline. These fractal patterns are the way Sefaram see one another. Where humans look at skin color facial shapes (shapes are a thing for Sefaram too), Sefaram rely most on the inner-most ring of the faline.)
Hobby 1) Travel
Hobby 2) mathmatics.
Height: 60.8 inches – 5’1”
Weight: 161 pounds
Build: Sleek. (She’s twiggy even by Seferam standards.)
Hair Color: Black (All Sefaram with hair have this)
Hair Length: Mid-shoulder
Hair Style: Rolled and braided. What would you call cornrowed hair that is braided into multiple braids…then braided again? (I don’t speak hair). (NOTE: I did some research and talked to a friend. The most accurate term I found was braided weave)
Eye Color: Black (All Sefaram)
Eye Shape: large ovals longer than tall. (deer eyes) (All Sefaram)
Face Shape: Round.
Freckles: None (Sefaram have none)
Moles: None (See above)
Scars: None as of Sojourn. (SPOILER DELETED INFORMATION)
Faline: Outter pattern (FAMILY IDENTIFIER): Four tear-drop-shaped loops in which the points meet in the middle. Inner Pattern (INDIVIDUAL IDENTIFIER): A pattern resembling a seven-pedaled flower blossom. (NOTE: Faline are ultraviolet patterns on the mid-section of each Seferam. Think of them as luminescent tribal tattoos that follow fractal patterns).
Clothing: (All Sefaram leave their faline exposed. Men usually go bare chested. Elele wears what are considered prudish clothes. No style or fashion (especially since the bad guy’s arrival). She were’s a simple outfit that ties around the neck. It covers her breasts. Cloth covers her sides and becomes a mid-calf length dress. It’s always a simple color with no ultraviolet patterning (a common fashion trend these days). She wears simple leather shoes. (SPOILER INFO DELETED)
Jewelry: None. Sefaram don’t wear it. Their bio-electro-magnetic power plays hell with metal.
faline: For Seferam, they’re an emotional cue. They pulse in different ways the way humans blush or flush.
You’ll see a lot of elements from the above-mentioned Sanderson Lecture there. Like I said. I can promise you that second hobby gave Elele a dimension I never really expected. Little things like that help me get deeper into her character. I didn’t realize math was going to be such a huge part of her character until I gave her that hobby. It then became her occupation. It’s now one of her key assets to how she sees the world and progresses in her plot.
Not all of this became cannon. (Note the picture, she looks very different now that she’s all fleshed out) I left in some of my self-notes. They’re my musings, motivations or research sites for me to get a better feel. I did delete a bunch of my self notes because they were far too spolierific for me to include.
So my next evolution will blend all of these to help me develop a character in terms of physical attributes, motivations, archetype, and plots. Where Corey uses his D & D sheets, I was always a Rifts man myself. I’ll let those character sheets provide the physical attributes. I’ll let the Sanderson lecture round the character out. Then I’ll let them work together to make the character more realistic. Then I’ll let the plotting provide the finishing touches.
I feel this needs a summary:
1) Identify character. Leave what speaks to you alone and let chance determine all other physical attributes. For Elele, I knew she was female, and I knew what species she was. I also knew what culture I would borrow from most heavily for that species.
2) Name the character. (I’m all over the place here. I do everything from a quick study of names, to popular names of other cultures. Sometimes I look for what a name means in a language I best feel fits the culture of the character. When all else fails, I use arandom name generator. For Elele, I realized I liked the idea of palindrome names. There’s a mathematical significance to that (and also one of the other species in the book) that I felt was appropriate.
3) Fill in physical attributes. This includes race, species and other aspects of the character’s background.
4) Establish occupation, hobbies and goals. (this is where some plotting comes in).
5) Begin plotting. This is the most critical step. Every character is the main character in THAT character’s mind. So I plot as if this character is in her own story. I’m not married to this plotting or outline. Elele’s actual arc has some significant differences from the outline, but not who she is or what she does.
This gives me the freedom to get to know my characters in my own natural way. I’m a discovery writer at heart, and I need some room for that to work. What I don’t ever do is start plotting before I get a sense for the core of my character. When I outline one way, then realize my character wouldn’t do that, I don ’t fight it. Early on in Elele’s arc in Images of Truth, Elele was supposed to act and work in one way. Then I realized she wouldn’t handle that situation in the outlined manner. Her decision was more heroic, and led to better conflict and emotional payoff.
(NOTE: I’m talking about her role in Images of Truth, not Sojourn. Sojourn is a prequel to Images.)
Every character has a core just like every person. I find that core by gifting them traits. I take something from a character I love. I take something from someone I love. I take something from someone I don’t like very much. Then I take something from myself. I blend them together and it makes a new character I understand very well.
Let’s look at Bob: His part-time job and love of reading came from me. His drive to understand came from my mom. His love of quoting things came from Beast of the X-Men. I won’t tell you where his frustrating ability to mope comes from, because I’m not trying to dime out people I’m not actually a big fan of. (Note, I said people I don’t like very much. Me not liking a person in no way makes them bad or even unlikable. I feel naming said individual would borderline on slanderous.)
Doing that is what gives me a picture for how they would handle situations. We writers need to remember though that the horrible things we put our characters through is going to change them. If it doesn’t, it won’t feel realistic. I get a baseline from this, then let their experiences shape how they’ll handle future decisions.
I hope that helps. Honestly, it’s just the way I do it. How do you do it? Was this helpful? Any tricks or resources you like? Feel free to say as much in the comments below.