The Character Sketch

 

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Sticks of Personality

I am doing the 2017 Book Reading Challenge hosted by GoodReads.  Feel free to go over to the site and hop in on the fun.  I was going to try for 100 books, but then I realized I have things to do like work and sleep and eat and maybe pet my cat once in a while, and oh yeah, write my own book, so I went with fifty books.

So far, I have read thirteen and am really proud that I picked an underachievers number to keep my self-esteem higher than that of an eel in a snakepit.

I digress.

So far, some of the titles I have read include ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ along with some other swell reads.  I usually only read true crime.  However, as a writer trying to get her first book published this year, I have to read other genres.

I was reading Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches… but the main character yammered on too much and I got bored. I just put that one down and am now reading The Girl in the Ice which is listed as a gripping thriller. The writing is decent, and it is just now getting into some back story, but the POV is a flawed (it jumps back and forth in the same chapter at times). As far as the MC, she is screwed up which is good, because we’re all screwed up in some way. No one wants to read about a perfect person.

So my question is: Do you do a basic character sketch or a full detailed chart and backstory for them before you start bleeding at your desk writing? Or maybe you wing it and just feel them out as you go? I have always done a basic character sketch, but this time… this time I did sketches in more detail and it helps.

You can find blank sheets at Writer’s Digest.

Sketches help because as I write, I know which character would stop to let a squirrel cross the road and which character would run it over. I have tons of character sketch worksheets at home, but mostly use Scrivener, and I use real people.

Not like that! I use real people I see every day.  I ate lunch at a grocery store today (they have a lunch area, which is nice) and there were two employees sitting and talking at another table as I ate my salad, and skimmed my WIP for the second time this week. I listened to their conversation and peeked over at the woman real quick to see how she set her table for her lunch, her mannerisms, etc. You can read all the books you want about character traits, but the best way to get the real dirt is to go be among the people.

How do you give your characters character? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday – The Broken Road

There was this road; this cracked, steamy, dilapidated road that I heard about in a bar about twenty miles outside of the small town of Centralia, PA.  The gentleman (and I use that term loosely) who spoke of the road was so inebriated, I could scarcely tell if he was telling a whacked out story handed down through generations or if there was truth to the tale.

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Photo: DAM Steelman (Centralia, PA)

But I had to know.  That was my nature.  I had to get to the bottom of everything.  So, like a snake slithering back into the trees, I slipped out of the bar unnoticed, and headed for Centralia. I drove around that bright, sunny Sunday afternoon and then I saw the sign:

CENTRALIA – 2 MILES

Yes!  I overheard the road was closed.  And why wouldn’t it be?  Apparently, it was in no condition to handle any kind of traffic.  There were cracks and graffiti; steam and overgrown weeds. I came around a bend and saw the cemetery on Highway 61 that was mentioned. It was old Highway 61 I was searching for and it shot right off of new Highway 61.

I made it!  I could go back to the city and tell everyone about the broken road I stumbled upon.  Well, I could have.

You see, there was a large crack in the road, I hadn’t noticed it really, if you could believe that.  I was too busy gazing at all the profane graffiti on the sun-baked asphalt while catching glimpses of steam shooting out from cracks far down the broken road.

There was no rumble when the ground opened wide and swallowed me whole.  It was almost as if the broken road had been waiting to feast on something to quell its burning innards.

I always did have terrible timing.

*This piece is a repost from an older blog. It is one of my favorites.

Outlines – Do You or Don’t You

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Bacon Saves Everything

I finished my second National Novel Writing Month project last November.  My first one was in 2011 and no, I have no idea why I waited five years to write another 50,000 words in thirty measly days. I did, however, write a lot of other stuff in those five years.

That first NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting on my laptop, slightly edited but otherwise untouched as a stark reminder of everything to NOT DO when writing a novel.  And some reminders of what TO DO.

One thing you really want to do is work with an outline.

Outlines are good because they keep you on track. You might be writing a gun fight scene and suddenly you are going off on the layout of a cemetery for four pages and then ten pages after that a horse is duking it out with the town mayor (who is also a cat) and your plot line is buried right along with the bodies in the cemetery.

Oh, snap.

So, to keep yourself on the path of ‘write-eousness’ outlines help.

My outline for “Pendulum Rose” (my working title for my current WIP) started out simple and as I went I added more detail. Starting simple just so you have a gist of where you are headed is a huge time saver.

Example:

Chapter One

  • Jane wakes up in a field of marshmallow bunnies
  • She meets a strange man
    • he lives on a stick in a cookie field
    • he is directionally challenged
  • They walk down a crunchy road
  • They meet a large frog who wants to eat them
    • the frog is deeply insecure
    • strange man pocketed some cookies while taking to the frog

This is just an idea of how I outline (subject material is only an example).  Jotting down ideas works because, if you are anything like me, your memory isn’t what it used to be (we don’t need to go into the why of it) and you’re lying to yourself if you think you are going to remember what you wanted to remember.

Outlines are different than character sketches because outlines are a briefly listed detail where character sketches are detailed write-ups of the beings in your story. And yes, writing up a character sketch in an outline format is perfectly acceptable.

The only thing I write without an outline is flash fiction.  Flash fiction is such a short, compact story that writing an outline for it would take more time than the actual writing of the story.

There are a few ways you can outline.  One way is hardcore pencil and paper because hey, that’s just how you roll.  Two is Microsoft Word or another word processing program.  Three is Scrivener. I bought Scrivener last year because I got a discount through the NaNoWriMo website and while I am still getting a handle on it, the handles I am grasping firmly, are amazing.

Scrivener makes things easy because you can have multiple projects and inside each project you can have tabs, post-it notes and chapters.  To make sure you aren’t committing to something you might not like or need, you can download and try it free for thirty days. Check it out here.

However you outline, I am interested.  Do you use details?  Bare Bones?

Don’t forget to sign up for updates and if you need inspiration, check out my free writing prompts download here.

Copy That

Alright… While I work on my novel, I made an executive decision to continue pursuing a writing career in other ways and help out other writers.

This brings me to BAD WRITING.

 

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Really, Snoopy?

Bad writing is all around us, my friends. Click on any content mill website and immerse yourself in the whimsical ways of writers who know not what they do (or maybe they know and don’t care) and get paid very little – if anything – to do it.

I am not good at selling or pimping myself (I am a writer after all) so my hopes of this self-petting not being painful are pretty vain.

I am already feeling uncomfortable and icky inside while I sit here trying to tell you why you need me in your life. *Excuse me while I bathe in bathroom wipes*

You need me because I am honest; I am reasonable; I won’t string you along. I won’t tell you it took two hours to do a job when it only took one.

Enjoy the rest of your week.