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Sci Fi Writing Prompt 1 – The Gambling Slug

Posted in Other Stories with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2017 by Dawn Ross

In order to keep growing with my writing skills, I’m trying to do writing prompts again. This sci-fi one was more fun than I thought it would be. It’s not a great story, but I think this short story is entertaining. Let me know what you think.

The Prompt – An intergalactic poker game among five players of different races goes wrong when one is caught cheating. (Inspired by ridethepen.com)

Poker Chips

Barika coughed and waved away a billow of acrid smoke. Xir-bing chuckled derisively and blew another cloud of smoke generated by the cheroot protruding from his grossly wide mouth.

She hated this fat slug with his pallid, glutinous skin and blob-like limbs. Every time he moved, his body made irritating farting noises. The worst part, though, was his condescending attitude—as if slugs had some sort of superiority on the evolutionary scale.

She hated the other three players at the poker table only a little less. Jerut constantly picked at his elephant-like snout and made loud barking noises every time he won. The antennae on Kefer-bobala-or-something-or-other seemed to have a mind of their own as they oscillated this way and that. His temper seemed to oscillate as well. One moment he was chirping happily and the next he was buzzing angrily. Yet his moods seemed to have nothing to do with how his game was going.

And then, of course, there was the long-necked being from the faraway Umbar region. She couldn’t even begin to pronounce his name. It was some sort of odd combination of clicks and whines. People here called him The Braggart because that’s all he did. And it didn’t help that he had valid reasons for it. He was highly intelligent, a great fighter, and one of the best pilots this side of the galaxy.

What she hated more than these oafs, though, was having to play this crater-driven game. It never should have come to this. Never.

She grimaced as she picked up her five cards. One-by-one, she spread them out in a tight fan. Two one-eyed jacks seemed to wink at her. Then a five, a seven, and a ten. Well, at least the jacks gave her hand some promise.

She masked her rising hope as she threw in her bid and discarded two cards, keeping the jacks and the single ten. Keeping a straight face was apparently important in this game. Unintentionally expressing a tell could force a player bankrupt faster than a Mortovodian businessman.

None of the other players had a tell as far as her inexperience could see. At first, she thought Kefer-blah-blah was just trying to throw them off, but betting against his moods did no better than betting on them. Maybe his antennae picked up too many melodrama’s coming in off the entertainment stream.

Jerut scratched his nose this time. Was that a tell? And if so, did it mean he had a good hand or a bad one? His expression gave nothing away.

Craters, she hated this game. Poker was for low-level beings, beings who thought they could actually hit the jackpot through luck and deception.

But she was desperate, and not for the money. There was a whole lot more at stake here than the precious metal that her own people mined in spades. How in the hell did she get herself into this crater-driven mess, anyway?

She scowled over Jerut’s shoulder at her commanding officer who sat at the bar drinking some sort of vaporous liquid. To say Captain Terchini was a pilgarlic was a vast understatement. And it wasn’t just because of his bald head and pungent odor. It was with the way he thought so highly of himself despite being the most pathetic being in the galaxy.

No one took him seriously—that is no one but the league she served. His promotion to captain had to have been an act of pity on their part. After all, if it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have lost the Orb of Sharina to begin with.

That’s what she was playing for—the Orb of Sharina. Xir-bing had it and wouldn’t sell it. The crater-driven slug didn’t need it. It was a worthless trinket to everyone else but the League of Remnants. For the League, it meant the difference between life and death. Yet he refused to sell it to her. And it was all because of Terchini and his pitiful way of trying to strong-arm a creature with more brawn and surprisingly more brains.

Kefer-blah-blah passed out the next round of cards. She picked up her two, careful not to let the two creatures sitting on either side of her see them.

She unfolded her hand and her heart leapt. It was about time she got a winnable hand. She glanced quickly at the others. Hopefully, none of them noticed the sudden change in her emotions.

Xir-bing bet big. Jerut and the other two folded. It wasn’t the first time the slug had tricked her by placing such a large bet. She glanced over at him and gave him her dirtiest look yet. Her frown had two purposes. One, she wanted him to know how much she despised him. And two, she hoped to throw him off and make him think she had a terrible hand.

He laughed mockingly and threw in five more chips. “Call.”

Craters. She’d been hoping get him to go higher so she could get him to gamble the Orb.

She slapped down her hand. Two jacks and three tens. Xir-bing chuckled again and set down three aces and two twos.

Craters, craters, and more craters! She ground her teeth and swallowed down the bitterness rising from her throat. She hadn’t won a single hand against this slug and his constant smile and mocking noises were grating her nerves.

Something glistened from behind his bulbous ear, something that didn’t have the sheen of a worm to it. Her frown deepened as she stared intently.

The slug’s smile faded. His beady eyes bored into her as if in a challenge. She would have turned away had her curiosity not been so piqued.

“What is that?” she said in an accusatory tone.

“What? Nothing.” The slug’s wide mouth turned down and he squirmed in his seat.

“It is too something.” She stood. “I can see it.”

“No, it’s not! It’s not anything.”

She snatched at it. The slug was surprisingly fast in his attempt to stop her, but not fast enough. The item, whatever it was, came off easily. She stepped back and examined the small metallic thing in her hand.

The Braggart craned his long neck and looked at it too. He blinked his eyes a few times and then jumped to his feet. “It’s a mind-reader!”

“What!” Jerut barked as he slammed his fist down on the table.

Kefer-blah-blah’s buzz ripped through the room. It was so loud that she felt the vibration of it in her bones.

Xir-bing stood and pointed at her with his stubby extremity. “You had it in your hand all along! You only pretended it came from me, like some charlatan magic trick!”

If not for his panic-stricken expression, his accusation might have been believed.

Jerut stood so quickly that his chair fell. “Guards! Guards! Guards!” His words came out in yelps as he waved his hands, or paws, in the air. “Help! We’ve been hoodwinked.”

Xir-bing slid back with his fat stumpy feet. His little round eyes darted around, as though looking for an escape.

“Oh, no you don’t.” The Braggart grabbed Xir-bing’s round slimy arm.

Xir-bing struggled. The Braggart did some fancy move that she didn’t even know was possible. The slug fell to the floor with a big wet thwack.

Guards swooped in and one jabbed his shock-stick into the slug’s gut. Xir-bing howled in a sickly way that sounded like a cross between a crustacean in boiling water and a mastodon in distress.

She smiled. It’s just what the fat slug deserved. But her smile quickly faded. What about the Orb? How would she get it now? Craters.

*****

“Xir-bing!” she said in a sweet sing-song voice. It made her spirits dance to see the fat slug looking so distraught in his metal cage. “Poor little wittle Xir-bing-ling,” she added in mock pity. “Slugs don’t like small spaces, do they?”

Xir-bing’s wide mouth drooped and his bulbous head fell in shame.

A grin stretched across her face. The small space was bad enough but slugs disliked metal even more. It made them slip and slide everywhere no matter what form their wormy bodies tried to contort into.

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you that gambling never pays?” she said in a still-chipper tone as she stepped closer to the cage door. “And neither does cheating?”

“Xylerians don’t have mothers,” he replied in a defeated tone.

“Awe. That’s too bad. I guess you had to learn the hard way, huh?”

Xir-bing’s pallid skin turned red and his beady eyes suddenly flared. “You lost too. There’s no way you can get the Orb now.”

“Isn’t there?” she said in mock concern.

“It’s in my quarters and you can’t get it. It’s mine.”

“Now, now,” she replied as though talking to a naughty child. “That’s no way to talk to someone who has the means to bail you out of here.”

The neckless slug tilted his head in such a way that indicated she had his full attention.

“Remember the amount of Retonian metal I offered you for the Orb earlier?”

“Yes,” he said warily.

She tittered ironically. “Well, it just so happens that the amount you still owe for bail after all your accounts have been depleted is just half of that amount.”

His wide frown deepened. Apparently, he didn’t like where this was going. She was loving every moment of it.

“Anyway, I figured that if you tell me how to get the Orb, I will pay that amount and get you out of here. That is, of course, once I actually have the Orb in my hand and after you sign a document declaring me the rightful owner.”

Xir-bing’s body pulsed. There was no other word she could think of to describe it. One moment, he seemed to swell like a balloon, and the next he was back to his normal size. She supposed he was probably breathing heavily, but the slug had no nose—at least not a discernable one.

Her heart thumped in her chest as she tried to discern his emotion. Minutes passed, or it seemed like minutes, anyway.

Suddenly, he stood. “You Retonian pirate! You’ll never get that Orb. Never!”

She clenched her teeth. A boiling heat flushed through her body. “Fine.” She turned abruptly as though to leave.

“Wait!” he said with a hint of desperation in his voice.

A smile crept over her lips and she suppressed it before turning slowly back to him. “What?”

The slug pulsated again, but only a few times. “If I tell you how to get the Orb, how do I know you’ll actually bail me out?”

She cocked one of her eyebrows. “You don’t. But what choice do you have? The amount you need is more than you can obtain while sitting in this cell. Your winning personality leaves you with no friends to help you. Either you trust me and hope I keep my promise or you stay here and rot for the fifty days they say it will take for you to make up the rest of your bail money.”

Redness crept into his sickly pale skin again. And he held his breath, or whatever it was he did when he pulsated, so that his glutinous skin stretched to the point where it might pop.

She couldn’t help but to rub in some salt. “By that time, you will be nothing but a shriveled sack of skin.”

He deflated. “Fine. I’ll tell you.”

“Good. I’m glad we can work things out.” She pulled back her shoulders and gave him her best smile. “You realize, though, that if you had just sold me the Orb to begin with, you wouldn’t be in this mess? You’d have more money instead of none.”

His beady eyes turned to the floor.

“Gambling simply doesn’t pay,” she added. “And Retonians always get what they want.”

© September, 2017 by Dawn Ross

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Creating a Plot Storyboard for your Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2017 by Dawn Ross
Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard – Print this out for your use or use note cards or a writers’ software program like Scrivener.

Remember last week’s post? I gave two tips for helping you get started on writing that book you always wanted to write. One of those two was to create a plot storyboard. Why? Because in order for people to like your novel, you need to have a good plot. With a good plot, even an beginning writer can write a worthwhile story. A plot storyboard can help guide you in developing your plot. Here is a basic plot storyboard outline to help you plan your novel:

  1. Character in a normal world – Don’t make this part too long or boring. In the old days, writers took a lot of time to develop the characters and setting in the first chapter or two. But in today’s world, you want to grab the reader’s attention as soon as possible. I, personally, stick to about half a page and add other details to scenes and characters as the story progresses.
  2. Inciting incident – This is the incident that forces the character to act. For a romance, it could be him meeting a woman who captures his interest. For a mystery, it could be a murder of a friend. For an adventure, it could be a call to war from the authorities.
  3. Character must make a choice – Do they pursue the woman, try to solve the murder on their own, or honor the draft?
  4. Character begins his journey
  5. First complication arises – This is going to be the character’s first indication that the journey is not going to be as easy as he first thought.
  6. Complication grows
  7. A new and larger crisis emerges – This is going to be much larger than the first complication and will cause the character to stop and wonder whether he should go on. It may also send the character in a new direction. This complication will be approximately midway through your story.
  8. Complications increase and become more complex – Your character may want to turn back, but keeps moving forward.
  9. A breaking point complication arises – Your character is going to be at the lowest of the low. The task is going to seem complicated. Your character is going to want to give up. The situation looks hopeless and it’s your character’s darkest moment.
  10. The character decides to finish what he started – Your character needs to go against his natural inclinations and do something he never would have thought of himself doing before. Make sure that whatever it is that instigates him to move forward despite the new and more complicated situation that it’s not a deux ex machina. This is something that miraculously shows up just in the nick of time without any indication previously in the story that this might arise. A deux ex machina would be a sudden change of heart with no explanation or a friend who has had very little interaction in the story suddenly shows up with awesome skills to help.
  11. The drama is resolved – The drama is resolved, the antagonist is defeated, and the character has changed. For a romance, the character is now a person in love. For a mystery, perhaps the character has a darker view of humanity. For an adventure, the character has learned more about the world and more about himself.

This is just a basic storyboard outline. Your story can have more than three increasingly difficult complications, but at least three are needed. And your story can have smaller side-plots. Also, remember not to get too caught up in the planning process. It’s good to plan because it gives you a place to start. But too much planning can cause you to lose steam and you’ll never get to the fun process of writing your book.

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

Posted in About the Author with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes one just need to take a step back. In this case, it’s a little of both.

In regards to life getting in the way, be assured that it’s nothing bad. As some of you may know, my husband and I foster kids. Generally, we only foster one at a time and one between the age of 6 and 12. A few months ago, though, we were talked into taking two teenagers, a brother and sister. We were told they were well-adjusted, well-mannered kids and this has turned out to be totally true. Still, parenting can be a busy job.

We are also in the process of adopting a two-year-old boy from China. The paperwork for this process has been a terrible headache. It’s not just a matter of filling out forms, but also a matter of gathering specific documents and making sure they are from the right sources, in the right format, with the correct information, with the right signatures, and with the right dates.

Eddie

I can’t show you pics of our foster kids, but here’s the boy we’re in the process of adopting. We’re naming him Edward, or Eddie for short.

I had to take a step back from my writing and from blogging for other reasons as well. To put it simply, I just needed a break so that my mind could recharge. Not too long ago, I told you how I received feedback from a content editor. She pointed out several core story problems that I needed to work on. Although it was hard to swallow the criticism, I knew she was right. But I wasn’t entirely sure how to fix the problems.

That was back in March, 2017. Rather than ponder the problems right off, I took a few weeks off and completely stepped back from my novel. I binged on Netflix and read a few fantasy and sci-fi novels.

When I felt I had wasted enough time, I dived back in. And when I dived back in, I devoted almost all of my free time to the novel itself. I didn’t blog.

So where do things stand now? We still have our two teenagers so I still devote time to them. The adoption process is pretty much done and now we’re just waiting for the government organizations to get organized. I’ve found the time to ponder the story problems and have come up with some great ways to fix them. And now I’m in the process of rewriting parts of the novel. In fact, I believe I’m almost done.

Now that I’m back to writing and nearly finished with the rewrite, I figure it’s time to get back to blogging. This post is a rather boring and personal post, but hopefully next week I’ll be able to post something more useful for you. Any topic in particular that you’d like me to cover? Writing tips? Publishing tips? Editing tips? Or perhaps you just want to read a part of the rewrite? Feel free to comment below.

Core Story Problems with “StarFire Dragons”

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Book Cover for StarFire Dragons

Last week I discussed the core story problems my content / development editor pointed out. But when I discussed these issues, I discussed them in a general manner. The following applies those issues to my own story, “Starfire Dragons”.

Making the Primary Protagonist Face a Hard Choice

I seemed to have two primary protagonists, J.D. and Jori, neither of which had to face a truly difficult choice. Jori was faced with a choice where he could either please his father by hurting J.D. or not hurting J.D. and suffering the consequences of his father. But he makes his choice too easily. And the idea of consequences from his father is too distant for the reader to grasp. J.D. is faced with a choice where he could either go against his superiors to help the enemy child he’s come to care about or follow orders and betray the child. Again, he makes the choice too easily and he slips out of the consequences.

I admit, making characters I love makes it really difficult to put them in tight spots. But it’s got to be done if they’re going to truly grow, which leads to the next heading.

Helping the Primary Protagonist Grow

Both J.D. and Jori grew as people but not in a profound way and not in such a way where they had to face a final antagonist in order to grow. J.D. became less wishy-washy, but I think he’s still too wishy-washy in the end. At first glance, it would seem Jori made the most growth, but when you consider some of his history and his teachings with Master Jetser, he already had a foundation to build on.

Choosing One Primary Protagonist and One Primary Antagonist

As my editor, Kristen Lamb, pointed out, my story had no primary antagonist for the primary protagonist to fight. I thought my antagonist was more of an intangible one—our human tendency to hate someone because they are different than us. But how can there be a final battle with a human flaw? If I were to keep this human flaw as my primary antagonist, I would have put it into a single human form.

Jori as the Primary Protagonist?

If I choose Jori as the primary protagonist, who will be his primary antagonist? It can’t be J.D. because he would be downgraded to secondary protagonist. It could be the captain, but this would cause me to rethink the entire series I have mapped out. If I made Rear Admiral Zimmer the primary antagonist, I’d have to bring him more into the story. If I make Calloway the primary antagonist, I will need to give him a higher rank. Things to consider.

J.D. as the Primary Protagonist?

My other option is to make J.D. the primary protagonist. His primary antagonist can’t be the captain for the same reason indicated above. It could be Zimmer, maybe even Calloway. In a way, it could be the Alliance itself. After all, he’s struggling with a dilemma of duty versus morality. If the Alliance represents duty, he’d have to make a hard choice regarding morality. But the Alliance itself can’t be a defeated antagonist without a human form. Jori comes across as his antagonist at first, but my future stories won’t allow for him to be the primary antagonist.

Terk as the Primary Antagonist?

Perhaps Terk could be J.D.’s primary antagonist. Terk would have to wake up sooner and his father’s beliefs would have to be stronger than Jori’s. The only thing is, I will need to think of a way to defeat Terk without killing him (as Kristen suggested) because he’s an integral part of book two. I know, I know, Kristen. Having a “little darling” as you call it could be a huge boulder in the path of a successful story. But I will find a way to blow up that darned boulder and still keep my character. Perhaps defeat could mean thwarting Terk’s plans.

Creating a Final Epic Battle

No matter who I choose as my primary protagonist, I need to make sure they defeat my primary antagonist in a battle of some sort. Battles don’t always have to be with actual fighting. But considering Jori and Terk are warriors and J.D. is a strategist, I think this makes the most sense. I see a huge space battle scene forming.

Conclusion

If I really want to improve my writing and make this story great, much of it will have to be changed. A lot will need to be cut out. And some things may not go the way I had originally planned. While this seems harsh or even discouraging, I’m not put off by it. If anything, I’m raring to go. My mind is churning with ideas. “StarFire Dragons” isn’t going to be published when planned, but it will be published. And it will be my best work ever.

How to Come Up With Sci-Fi Story Ideas

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2017 by Dawn Ross

My sci-fi story is more of a space opera than a hard-core sci-fi. For those who don’t know what those terms mean, a space opera is more about the characters and their lives in space than about any technical sciency. Hard-core sci-fi is quite the opposite. I’d like for my science fiction novels to be a little more sciency, but I’m having a tough time coming up with ideas. So I thought I’d do some research for idea generation and have come up with some ways I hope will help.

Firefly Cast of Characters

TV, Movies, & Books

What are your favorite movies, TV’s, and books? What were their plots? You shouldn’t steal someone else’s ideas, but ideas can generate from them. Actively think about the plot when you watch or read something. Then mediate on it later to see if it inspires your own ideas. I admit I got the idea of Jori from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Suddenly Human”. Jori isn’t exactly like the boy in this episode. Nor is his situation the same. But some aspects follow along the same lines.

World-Building

Documentaries & Non-Fiction

You can get a lot of great ideas from reading a science magazine or non-fiction book. One book I’ve read, “World-Building” by Stephen L. Gillett has given me a few ideas. This book educates you on how things work in space and provides potential planet-scapes and such based on today’s knowledge. Documentaries, such as “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” can also give some great ideas.

Take Ten for Writers

Writing Exercises

Writing exercises are a great way to stimulate the imagination. In fact, this is something I need to do more often and something I plan on making a part of my regular writing routine. One book I’m planning on going through is called “Take Ten for Writers” by Bonnie Neubauer. Books like this give you a basis to start. For example, the first exercise in this book gives you a list of phrases that you can use to write a short story. The first phrase is “blindingly bright”. Next week, perhaps I will share the short story I wrote that contains this phrase.

Seems simple enough, but this book contains a variety of different exercises. One asks you to write a short story around a particular object, such as a Styrofoam cup. Another gives you a scenario, such as being abandoned by your date or being lost in the woods. Another wants you to write about an attribute without ever actually using the word or similar words. Even if none of these writing exercises mentioned here sound fun, there are many different exercises in this book. And there are lots of other books that help prompt writing exercises.

Brainstorm

I most often use brainstorming as a way to come up with book titles. But it’s great for coming up with story ideas as well. Simply write words related to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about a space ship, write down words like interstellar travel, speed of light, vessel, sub-space, warp drive, and so on. One or more of these words just might trigger an idea.

Write Randomly

This is the most common method I used to generate a story idea. I know my setting and I know my characters, so I simply start writing what I want to achieve and randomly write things I think might work. I don’t’ stop and think. I just write. And so when one idea comes while in the middle of writing another, I go with it and keep writing. This is the method I used to come up with the idea of the Chekrosians in book one of my sci-fi novel.

Computer-Generated

There are a number of apps that help writers generate story ideas. One of my favorites, and one I learned about through a fellow writer, is called Brainstormer. Brainstormer lets you spin three wheels, which line up to form one idea. I just now spun the wheel and here’s what it came up with – healing journey, Nazi, mansion. Did this trigger a short story idea for you? It certainly did for me.

There are websites you can visit as well. One I recently visited called SciFiIdeas.com randomly pulled up this story idea – “When a man is abducted by aliens, a clone is created to replace him. The story is told from the perspective of both the original and the clone.” Sounds fun!

Study People & Surroundings

The world might seem boring most of the time. But if you look carefully, you will probably see some quirky people or odd out-of-place things. Yesterday, I saw a short couple with a really large white dog and I began thinking about how those small people could possibly control such a large dog. I bet that dog eats more than those people! Maybe it’s an alien. I also saw a Star Wars kids baseball cap laying on the ground by a pond. Of course, the child could have just left it there after feeding the ducks. But what if he was pulled into the pond by a pond monster? (We have no alligators in our area, so pond monster would be much more realistic.) I started thinking about this kid and all the circumstances that led to him leaving this cap behind. It could make for a great mystery story.

Conclusion

There are many ways to generate ideas. It’s just a matter of actually implementing them. Tv’s, movies, and books are great, but don’t let yourself get too absorbed in them. And don’t just mediate on ideas. Write. To quote Yoda, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Do you have another way that helps you generate sci-fi story ideas?

Tips to Improve Your Story by Writing Better Characters

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Toy Story on Writing Characters

I don’t care whether you have a sci-fi, fantasy, western, action/adventure, mystery, drama, or other genre. The characters in your story are just as important as the story’s plot. Without characters, you have nothing. With mediocre characters, you have a mediocre story. You could almost get away with a mediocre story if you have excellent characters. So how do you build great characters? Here are some great tips:

Write Their Backstory

When I began writing The Guardian of Destiny, I had a very difficult time writing the main character. I just couldn’t get into him. It wasn’t until I really got to know him by writing his backstory from his childhood to the present that made me really understand who he was. When you tell your actual story, you don’t have to provide your character’s entire backstory. Just include the parts relevant to the story and/or a few of the interesting parts that reveal why your character is the way he is.

Physical Characteristics

I’ve noticed some writers include very little character description and let the reader fill in the blanks. As a reader, I kinda prefer this myself. But I’ve come to realize that most readers want at least a little bit of a description. So make the descriptions unique or interesting. This is especially important when you have multiple characters. The more characters you have, the more difficult it will be for your reader to keep up with them all. So give them a unique feature or two. Perhaps one character has thick eyebrows or one has a unique color of eyes. Go beyond facial features. Perhaps one character has a limp or one is overly tall.

Ben Affleck

J.D., the character in my new sci-fi series, has a crooked smile. I like to think the smile looks a little like Ben Affleck’s. Jori has a Japanese look, though I never state this because of the genre. I try to hint at it with the color of his skin and hair, with the shape of his eyes, and with the fact that he occasionally uses Japanese words.

Gestures, Habits, and other Noticeable Characteristics

Speaking of the words a character uses, this is another way to help individualize your characters. People watching is something writers do all the time. It’s a great way to pick up on the little things people do that make them individuals. Perhaps you notice someone who taps their foot all the time or someone who plays with their hair. Habits can include someone who smokes or someone who is always drinking coffee. J.D. strokes his chin a lot. Jori and Terk curse a lot, Terk more so.

Strengths and Weaknesses

List your character’s most prominent strengths and even a few of his weaknesses. If a character has nothing but strengths, never does any wrong, it makes for a very boring character. No one is perfect, so even the best characters will have a few things they’re not good at. Jori has a lot of things going for him. He’s highly intelligent, has a lot of common sense, and is greatly athletic. He even has a tendency to be modest and considerate, though you wouldn’t know this in the beginning of the story. So it seems he’s practically perfect. But he’s not. He has a bit of a temper, which sometimes gets him into trouble. He also has a tendency to keep his feelings to himself, which makes other people think he’s an emotionless jerk.

I admit I’ve read (and liked) books where the hero seems to have no character flaws. It’s true some people like a story with a perfect white knight hero. So if this is your character, make sure your story makes up for the lack of character conflict in other ways, such as with a great plot and interesting twists.

Stand by Me Movie

Relationships

How the character relates to others says a lot about them. What are their relationships like with their parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, and others? Do they have a lot of friends, or few? Are they loyal to one spouse or do they like to sleep around? Depending on your story, you may even want to consider your character’s relationships with animals. One character I particularly like in my story is Mik Calloway. He’s a complete ass. And one way you can tell this is by how he is with his coworkers. Even though he’s hanging out with them, he only thinks negative thoughts about them. And he only admits that he’s hanging out with them because he doesn’t want to drink alone.

Occupation

Be sure to consider the character’s occupation when writing their character. Stereotypes exist for a reason, so think about the stereotypical dentist, racecar driver, jock, lawyer, cop, and so on. But be careful about making your character cliché. Even though people tend to fall into certain stereotypes, they are still individuals. Jori, for example, is immediately viewed as a stereotypical warrior with a bad attitude and hot temper. But as you will see later in the story, there is so much more to him than that. Use stereotypes to your advantage by perhaps making your characters see other characters in a stereotypical way, but then have them learn a lesson by learning otherwise later on.

Cardinal Richelieu of the Three Mustketeers

Beliefs

Your character’s beliefs go beyond just what their religious preferences are. Think about the core values of your character? Does he believe each man for himself or does he believe in helping others? Is he open-minded or stuck in his ways? Does he tend to see the best in others or the worst? Is he a strictly by-the-book kind of guy or will he break the rules to right a wrong or to get ahead?

A Character’s Journey

Whatever happens in your story, whether your hero is out to save the galaxy, meets the love of his life, destroys the evil warlord, or catches a serial killer, these events are going to change your character forever. Hopefully, they are going to help your character grow. Even the bad guy could learn something new. When you develop your story, think about what your character is going through and what lessons they can learn from it. Think about how their lives are changing and will change as the action progresses.

Create a Character Journal

I forgot where I learned this from, but it has been the most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever received when it comes to writing characters. The character’s journal consists of everything listed above, plus a few extra if you’d like. If your character journal is a physical one, cut out pictures of what your character might look like or what he might wear. If you can draw, draw the pictures. Draw his home and/or his favorite things. If your character journal is a digital one, like mine, attach images. One person I know uses Pinterest to collect pictures that fit their characters.

Conclusion

The more you think about all the aspects of your character, the better chance you have of creating a deep and memorable character. And the more memorable your character, the better chance you have of creating a memorable story. If you have any additional tips for creating great characters, please feel free to comment below.

Writing a Book for NaNoWriMo

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2016 by Dawn Ross
NaNoWriMo 2016

November is National Novel Writing Month @NaNoWriMo, nanowrimo.org

Do you have an idea for a book in your head but just haven’t sat down and written yet? The prospect of writing a novel can certainly be daunting. Where do you start? How do you find the time? What if it’s bad? Here’s how NaNoWriMo can help.

What is NaNoWriMo?

November is National Novel Writing Month @NaNoWriMo, nanowrimo.org. It is a non-profit organization set up to encourage new writers to write. Signing up is easy. And it also helps you find writing groups in your area who can help give you encouragement.

Where to Start

There are two types of writers. There are planners and there are those who just write by the seat of their pants, aka pantsers. I am a planner. I have my book entire mapped out and know exactly where I’m going to start on November 1st. If you’re just now thinking about NaNoWriMo, then it may be a little late to plan. But that’s okay. Surprising things can happen with your characters when you wing it. And believe it or not, a lot of writers write this way. So don’t let the fact that you don’t have a plan stop you.

How to Find the Time

This can be a tough one, especially if you’re trying to juggle work, school, kids, home, and whatever else comes up in your life. Joining NaNoWriMo.org and finding a writing group in your area can help. They often meet for what is called write-ins where everyone sits together and writes. Having like-minded people around you can not only provide encouragement but can also make you feel accountable. Write during your lunch break. Get an app on your phone so you can write while waiting in lines. Ask your family to give you time. Find time after the kids are in bed. These are just a few ideas. You can do it! 50,000 words is 1,667 words a day, which is less than a chapter a day!

Don’t Worry About Quality

November is just about writing. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, prose, plot holes, boring parts, or anything else. Just write! Some NaNo writers have been known to get halfway through a story and realize they hate how it’s turning out so they start over. But they start over with another story. They don’t start over with their word count! Anything you write when writing your novel counts towards your 50,000 word count. Don’t cheat and write nonsense. But just write it and worry about fixing the story and editing it later. The most important thing in November is to write 50,000 words for your novel.

About Me

November 2015 was the first time I joined NaNoWriMo and it was the best thing I ever did. I wrote Book Two of the Kavakian Empire that month. No, it’s not published yet. I’m still working in fixing Book One so I can make it good enough for publishing. This November, I’ll be taking a break from fixing Book One so that I can write Book Three of the Kavakian Empire: Warrior Outcast. Find me on NaNoWriMo by searching author dawnross, all one word, all lower case.

To finish writing a novel is a very satisfying experience. Trust me. I know. So just sit down and write and you can finally get that story out of your head and on paper. Write it in November and then spend the rest of the year perfecting it for publishing. You never know, you just might be the next best-selling author!

p.s. I may or may not post what I write in November. But I will try to post something.