Tag Archive: personality


Epenthesis-Episode 013: Believable Characters

Summary: Talking about Murdering Your Darlings, creating believable flaws, and how you can avoid making Mary Sues. I also talk about Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series and how to use unexpected contradictions to surprise the reader.

I’m thinking of writing a text blog tomorrow to give me a little break from podcasting. Or maybe a video blog! Would you guys like to see me making faces while I talk about writing?

 

 

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Sorry for the lack of a podcast so far this week, guys! I’ve been pretty busy getting some things organized for work but I did want to make a book recommendation for character exploring and development.

I find that the best advice usually comes from unexpected places. I was doing an acting workshop when it was suggested that we read Audition by Michael Shurtleff to use as a lens for studying our roles. The section on relationships is especially powerful for me, as it helps me better understand how to handle my own characters.

To give you a taste for it, the book suggests that actors (in an audition setting) should move beyond the obvious motivation in a scene. While it may be tempting to make a shy character lower their head, avoid eye contact, play with their hands, and generally avoid human contact, it is a cliche at this point. It doesn’t add to the character and leaves the actor (or writer in this case) much room to go anywhere. The book suggests to dream big, to allow the character to desire opposites at the same time.

There is an example in the book of a meeting between a man and his new stepmother, who is his own age. The director asks for their motivation, and each actor says that they are “discovering” that they are attracted to each other. The director suggests that they push harder, that the characters be madly in love with each other from that very first moment, the reason being that it gives the actor a lot more to work with. And then you have a powerful opposite that is simultaneously true: for the stepson, the desire not to hurt his father outweighs (in the first scene anyway) his desire for his new stepmother; and the stepmother’s reminding herself that she JUST married the man’s father counters her own desire for him.

The powerful opposites make for a far richer performance (and written scene) than an obvious reaction.

It reminds me of a common problem writers have with beginnings. I’ve heard several times that whatever you’ve got written down, you should cut the first three paragraphs and then begin the story there. The first part is useless information. It isn’t a strong beginning. I think this is part of that concept, that two characters are already in love when they meet rather than “discovering” one another.

So that’s one interesting thing I got from the book but there are plenty of other lessons. Definitely check it out, I’m rereading it right now and loving it.

Just Write – A Philosophy

I’ve always been fascinated by people’s philosophy about writing. It seems everyone has a different opinion: even when people agree, it seems as if everyone’s method is just a little bit different. I tend to ignore advice about when to write – what time of day is best, for example – because I feel that it is entirely subjective according to a person’s schedule. When I was in high school, the best time for me to write was at 5 PM until 8 PM every day because that was the time after I got out of school and before dinner. On weekends I tended to write at the same time because I’d grown used to it. When I started college, my hours were a lot crazier so I tended to write later at night – around 7 PM until 9 PM since we ate dinner later. When I went to grad school, my five month old puppy woke me at five in the morning every day to go out, so I tended to be awake a lot longer so I wrote from 8 AM until 10 AM, when I needed to either play with her or go to class. Also, because I tended to have very late classes, I tended to go straight to bed after coming home instead of staying up to write.

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While I was checking up on my normal round of blog posts, I saw this post by Cassandra Clare (author of the Mortal Instruments series and the Infernal Devices, the first of which is the prequel Clockwork Angel, which I am currently halfway through). And wow, that was a lot of links! Anyway, I was thinking about strategies for marketing books, as it becomes more and more difficult to market books (at least if you don’t know how the industry works). Just by visiting these sites, however, you can see a number of ways that Cassandra Clare has done a phenomenal job with her own marketing.

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