Inventing stories

Apologies for not posting this past week! Life’s been pretty hectic, as I adjust to classes and working (I have a campus job!). As I settle in, I’m hoping to have a more regular schedule.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on inventing stories.

When it comes to writing story lines, I seem to work a little differently every time. Sometimes, I invent the world first, and characters who fit in that world simply come to me (or I work at developing them). Other times, I create characters first, and they world they live in evolves as I figure out what their story is. Generally, the character comes first, with a snippet of their world as backstory, and I go from there.

The hard part is actually coming up with an idea. There isn’t really a good way to do it – and there isn’t a good way to regularly come up with ideas. Continue reading “Inventing stories”

Creating characters

There are a couple of ways I create characters.

The first way involves starting with someone I know – one of my friends, usually – and altering them. Maybe I change an aspect of their personality, by giving them a temper. Maybe I change the color of their hair from brown to blue. It’s a lot easier to write someone you know, and by tweaking them slightly, you can invent someone entirely different.

And, of course, putting them in a new setting will help with the differences. Dynamic characters undergo changes as they continue along their journey – the way the person will react is different from the way the character will react. As the character grows and changes, their reactions will change, moving even further away from their original inspiration.

The second way is to invent an entirely new character. This is harder, because you have less of a starting point, but I think it’s more common. Some of my characters walk fully developed into my head; others I have to work at.

My characters are a mix. Usually my main characters are based, at least partially, on people I know; my minor characters tend to be wholly from my head. Of course, this isn’t strictly true for every story – it really depends on where the idea for the story came from, which I will delve into later.

Happy writing!

Character development

Let’s talk about characters.

Characters are essential to nearly every story – well, okay, every story that I can think of. In fact, if I start reading a book and I don’t like the characters, I’m less likely to continue reading it. But we can talk about creating compelling and interesting characters later. For now, let’s stick to development.

There are two ways to develop your characters: direct and indirect. Both ways can be useful and can move your story along. Of course, there are limits to them, as well.

Direct characterization is when the writer simply states something about their character. Let’s say you want to convey that your character is deathly afraid of heights. Here’s how you would say it directly:

He was terrified of heights.

It feels very clunky, doesn’t it? Depending on the rest of the composition, it might flow or it might not. It’s just a fact that was thrown out there for your readers to enjoy.

Of course, you could use indirect characterization as well. Indirect characterization is when the writer doesn’t just say the trait about the character – they show it. Let’s use the character who’s afraid of heights again:

He refused to go one step closer to the edge of the cliff; the very thought of stepping closer made his stomach lurch.

It’s a bit longer, but it conveys the same thing. And it’s more interesting than just flat-out stating his fear of heights. Now we have a physical reaction along with the implied fear, and an indication of setting. There’s a cliff to spark his fear.

Personally, when writing, I prefer indirect characterization – but there’s a place and time for direct characterization as well. I usually use direct characterization when someone is thinking about another character or meeting them for the first time. We tend to think in direct terms – but we should write in indirect terms.

Good luck with your own characterization, and happy writing!