Okay, who doesn't have a good weekend when they don't have to attend school on Friday? Anyways, I got a lot done on my free day.
1. I got my first round of editing done on Just One of the Guys!
2. I went to a nice dinner with my family and some old friends.
3. I raided Barnes & Noble for some fresh reading material.
And Saturday was pretty great too! I went to a young writers' conference hosted at a local high school. It wasn't a huge, super organized event, but it was fun and it was nice. There were two local authors there who hosted the classes that the high school kids attended.
I learned a lot about writing warm-ups and rediscovered the key points to building a character. Dabbled in some poetry and some short, high-detail snippets. So I'm going to take some time and share the highlight activities with you.
Writing warm-up ideas:
1. Go through the classified ads. Look for cases where someone is posting an ad to find someone they met briefly. What details do they offer? Now try and create your own. How many unique details can you pinpoint to locate this person or item?
2. Read some thematic poetry. (We used a collection of muse poems.) What types of information and/or emotions are most common between each piece? Write your own and try to incorporate as many of those key elements as possible.
3. Divide your paper into two columns that run halfway down the page. Head one column: Famous People and the other Verb+ing Nouns. (Verb+ing Nouns are phrases such as: running with scissors, walking to a church, jousting with a samurai, etc.) Be as crazy and wacky as possible. Let nothing limit what you put in the lists. For example, Mickey Mouse counts as a famous person. Now, at the bottom of your page, start playing around with names and phrases. Write a paragraph or a short story using as many listed items as possible, or just focus on one person or action. What can you come up with?
Key points to character building:
1. Credibility. What makes your character reliable? What experiences have they had that make their actions believable? You can't have a rich guy from Boston show up in Texas and start talking in an authentic southern twang. Unless you have a really good reason for why. Maybe Mr. Boston got amnesia or was kidnapped at a young age. But remember, if you have to work too hard to justify something, then your reader isn't going to buy it- you've just lost your audience.
2. Purpose. Why is your character doing what he/she is? What drives them? Batman is a great example. Why does Bruce Wayne stalk the night as a superhero? Because his parents were murdered in a back alley robbery. He wants justice. In order to identify with a character, a reader must know what motivates the character. An air of mystery is fine- in the beginning. If a character's actions aren't justified, the reader will grow confused. If we didn't know why rich Mr. Wayne acted as Batman, we might put it down to playing god, arrogance, or boredom.
3. Complexity. What makes your character human? How is it possible to relate to your character? Superman and Harry Potter both work well here. Superman may not be a human, but he is human: there are times when he has to choose between his girl and the world. Harry Potter is the Chosen One, but he is still a typical teen: he has to go to school, deal with bullies, and has family issues. Mistakes and bad decisions are what make a character real. No one is absolutely perfect in real life- your character is no exception.
So what do you think? Try out some of the exercises and see what they do for you. Is your character credible, motivated, and complex?
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