From Colorless to Captivating: Creating 3D Characters

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             By Abigail Roberts
      One of the most crucial elements of a great story is a well developed main character. Think back to any novel that you’ve enjoyed reading. Most likely, there were characters that you felt like you could relate to, or at least a couple whose decisions and actions were interesting to read about. The thing that makes these characters so interesting and likable is that they have flaws and fears as well as the traits that make them strong.  When we read about them, we can see parts of ourselves paralleled in the characters, and because of that, they are relatable. But sometimes, it’s really challenging to create these rounded, relatable characters. Many times when I re-read the stories that I write, I’ve been dissatisfied with how one dimensional my characters were. That said, here are some tips that have helped me overcome flat characters and build their personalities.
1) Be sure to give them relatable flaws. One thing that is really helpful for me is to pick out something about my own personality that I would like to improve upon, and work it into my character. A big reason to have flawed characters is that your readers will be interested in seeing how they learn and grow to overcome the very imperfections that they -your audience- struggles with in their own lives. Many readers read to be inspired, and seeing your characters gradually improve themselves will definitely satisfy them.
2) Being clumsy or ugly doesn’t count.
I recently read a book with a main character whose greatest flaw was that she wasn’t pretty. The book had a very cool concept and great writing style- but for some reason, I felt disconnected to the main character. Then I realized that the character didn’t really have any real personality quirks. Most of the time, she focused on how ugly she thought she was, and after a while, it got a little old.  Being not the best looking, or heavy on your toes is something that lots of people could be embarrassed about, but these aren’t flaws, just physical features- and unless your character pays for an expensive procedure, he/she probably won’t be able to fix it. On the other hand, being insecure about his/her physique is an extremely relatable emotion that your character could potentially overcome, making it a great flaw that your audience can connect with.
3) Give your character a fear that foreshadows later events in your story.
 A huge part of storytelling is creating a conflict that drives your story, and making your character fear something that he/she will eventually have to face in some way, shape or form is a great way to add both character depth and a sense of suspense and urgency to your story that will help it move forward. There are thousands of different fears out there to give your character- just make sure it will be relevant and meaningful to the greater scheme of the story- for example, if your character is afraid of spiders, be sure that a pivotal moment in your story involves him facing spiders. Also, your character doesn’t just have to have fears like arachnophobia or being afraid of the dark. Sometimes the most relatable fears are the ones that evoke emotion for almost anyone- the fear of losing the people you love, or the fear of not being able to control your fate.
4) Justify your character’s fears with a backstory.
One of the best ways to achieve character depth is to develop a backstory to let your audience know why your character is the way he/she is. Perhaps your character’s greatest fear is not being able to save a loved one. That is a completely valid fear on its own, but your readers will understand his fear better if they know that they lost their beloved grandmother to evil people because they weren’t there in time to save her. A backstory like this will round your character and make it much easier for your audience to sympathize with them.
      These are just a few tips, but they definitely helped me to round out my characters. Happy writing, and stay inspired!
     –Abigail Roberts, Teen Commitee

Pushing Through

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By Anna Roberts
 Hey everyone! So today I’m going to talk to you about something that many writers, myself included, always have trouble with. Just writing. We all know that feeling when we just can’t seem to get our ideas out on the page or nothing sounds right. Well guess what? It doesn’t have to be perfect! Sometimes I get caught up in making everything just right, like it would be in my finished novel. Using the perfect words, writing about the perfect idea, creating the perfect character, etc. But we can’t get caught up in all that. We just have to push through and keep going. So I’m going to give you a couple ideas on how to do that.
First of all, don’t get frustrated. The thing that makes writers block worse is getting angry at your writing and then stopping the process all together. If you get frustrated and can’t seem to get out your ideas, take a five minute break and then come back to your writing. If you still can’t seem to think of anything, keep writing. Anything! Open a new document and type up stupid notes. Something like this would work: “My fingers are hurting. I’m hungry. Do you want to hear something awesome I did today?” Anything works, just keep writing!
The second thing that might be helpful is don’t look back on what you wrote. Editing is entirely different from writing and there is a time and a place for it. But while you’re writing, it’s ok for things to be messy. It’s ok to use less colorful words if that’s all you can think of. The most important thing is that you’re getting your story out on paper!
I hope these two simple tips help you while you’re writing because they really helped me! Also come check out the teen writer’s conference for more tips on how to write like a pro! Happy writing!! 🙂

 

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

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By Taylor White

Writing is a love hate relationship for most of us. We get these great ideas for a story which can come to life just my simply pressing a key on the keyboard. Then all the sudden, your mind goes blank. The dreaded writers block. We all get it at some point during the writing process. For some stories we might get more writers block than with other stories. Here are five ways to get rid of that awful writers block:

Try writing in a different way. Somedays I can just sit at the computer and type away and other days when I sit down at the computer I feel no inspiration to write/type. That’s when I switch over to the old pen and paper which usually gets me going again, but if that doesn’t work, maybe try creating a story web and sketch out the basics of your story so you know where you are going.

Write from the perspective of another character. I know this sounds kind of weird because you’ve already written the scene how you like it, but sometimes thinking out of your characters head and in a different characters head can get you thinking more clearly of how you are going to progress your story.

Have something completely out of the ordinary happen to your main character(s). I learned this one at the Teen Writers Conference a couple years ago from Lisa Mangum. She said, “Let your character get eaten by a purple elephant.” I think that was some very good advice. Maybe you got stuck on a part of your story where your character is walking down some creepy hallway but you’re not sure what’s going to happen to them. Have something completely random happen to them like maybe they fall into a bath of Jell-O or get into a bread duel with some evil baker. Get creative with this! It’s supposed to help your creative juices get flowing again!

Ask a friend. Last time I got stuck, I asked a friend of mine what they thought. So I told him the basics of my story and my dilemma. Even though some of his ideas were super silly and had almost nothing to do with what I was wanting to write, he did have some good ideas that I was able to branch off of to keep writing. Friends are always a useful tool!

READ. I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. All of us have heard that if you want to become a better writer read, then read some more, and then when you think you’re done keep reading. Reading is one of the number one ways to help you’re writing techniques and ideas to keep expanding.

I know there are times when you are just done. Done trying to write, done trying to remember every little detail of your story, and done trying to break through that darn writers block. I’ve been there, and so have a lot of you. But you keep writing anyways because that’s what’s you’re meant to do, you are a writer at heart and you know that your book(s) and ideas could change others’ lives and your own life as well.

Once upon a time…

by Mikayla Sepulveda
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Once upon a time…
Many of the stories from our childhoods started with these four words. Fairy tales. They were a sure promise of magic, adventure, and good conquering evil. As time went on, however, we grew out of these stories, and moved on to others. Well, some did. The rest of us still enjoy that thrill that comes by returning to these classic tales. More than simply being a form of entertainment, they are a bountiful source for writers.
So how can we use fairy tales to our advantage? One of the more obvious ways is to rewrite fairytales. These have increased in popularity as of late, with modern and even dystopian versions of these stories. Some of the most famous examples of retellings are those made by Disney, and there are even retellings of these now. When choosing to rewrite, it is important to know which version you’re going to use as your basis. Multiple cultures have versions of the same stories. Maybe this will influence how your story is written! It might be a good idea to make a list of what important elements of the original story you’re going to keep, and what you’re going to change.
The use of fairytales isn’t restricted to retellings. Their structure can be used to help any story in any genre. Have you ever noticed that things in fairytales seem to come in sets of three? Three pigs, three balls, three attempts to kill Snow White? There is an unspoken “Rule of Three” that appears in fairytales, and authors still use it today. Essentially, your character must try and fail at least three times before they can accomplish their goal. Notice I said “at least.” You can let your MC fail as many times as you like. Just make sure they have little victories along the way!
To end, I’d like to share some of my favorite retold fairytales, in both movie and book version:
  • The Little Mermaid – This is my absolute favorite Disney movie of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you lack a childhood. Just kidding (sorta). But you need to watch it (or rewatch it).
  • Fairest of All – This book was written by Serena Valentino, and follows the Evil Queen through the Disney version of Snow White (have you figured out how Disney obsessed I am yet?). It follows the movie’s events really well, while adding depth to the queen’s character.
  • Cinderella (2015) – This twist on the Disney twist of the classic tale is absolutely beautiful. The message is great, the film is great, and I love it. Go watch it and cry.
  • Fairest – Another twist on the Snow White story, this is my favorite Gail Carson Levine book. Her others are marvelous as well!
  • Once Upon a Time is Timeless – This is a series of retold fairytales written by various authors. They’re marvelous! My personal favorites are “Before Midnight” and “Violet Eyes.”

Share your favorites in the comments below!

Just Write.

By Cassidy Bryant

The Teen Writers Conference

Today, I’m going to talk to you all about something actually difficult for most writers. You’ve guessed it: writing! I know! It sounds ridiculous, and, yet, I can almost guarantee you’re nodding your head right now in agreement. I mean, we’ve all been there, but why? Why is it so hard for writers to do the one thing they absolutely love to do? Is it because of lack of time, lack of skill, or lack of ideas? Maybe it’s all three or even something different entirely.
  No matter what it is, the truth of the matter is that these are excuses. Don’t get me wrong—excuses are wonderful. They make us sound like we have a lot going on (thereby making us look cool) and help us justify our lack of writing to the point where we’re able to sleep at night.
The problem with excuses, though, is that they become major pitfalls when it comes to living our dreams. In a year’s time, you could have a whole manuscript written. Do you really want to be looking back a year from now with no words written for your novel, but a great, long list of irrelevant excuses? Of course not! You want to be editing your novel so you can live your life-long dream of being a published author.
If you find yourself making excuses to avoid writing, don’t worry. I totally know where you’re coming from because I’m a busy person with poor time management skills. When that combination comes alive in a person, all you’re left with are to-do lists with no check marks and an average of five hours of sleep every night. Something I’ve been trying to do, though, is write 100 words every day. I took this suggestion from a blog post I read about a year ago and it’s incredibly helpful.
For those with limited free time, it only takes about 5-10 minutes to write 100 words. For those who feel inadequate at what they do, practicing—even for just 10 minutes every day—will help you improve probably more than anything else. And, for those who struggle with coming up with things to write about, forcing yourself to write 100 words will help to get your ideas flowing. Every time I’ve sat down with the intention to only write 100 words, I came up with at least 500—even when I was completely lost starting out!
Now, maybe you’re scoffing right now because 100 words is such a menial goal. Real authors write at least ten times that and it’s such a tiny word count that you’d just as well not write anything at all. If either of these thoughts cross your mind, get rid of them! This perfectionist-type thinking will do more harm than good, often resulting in you not writing anything because you’re unable to meet the magnificently huge word count goal you have in mind. To prove to you how worth-it this small goal is, I did some math:
If you write 100 words for six out of seven days every week, you will have over 30,000 written within a year. That may not make a novel by NaNoWriMo standards, but it is so much better than 0. It is also important to keep in mind that these 100 Word Days are only the days when you don’t feel like writing.
So keep writing. Keep pursuing what you’re passionate about. If you’re truly dedicated to your craft, then know your writing time is just as important as all the other daily tasks we’re expected to do. It’s okay to guard your writing time, even when you’re the only one who takes it seriously.
Happy writing!

Talking About Writing with Non-Writers

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by Julie Larsen

So recently my social interaction with other human beings has increased dramatically and there is something new that I’ve come to realize. (Something I probably should have realized earlier.) There are a lot of people who know absolutely nothing about writing! It may seem hard to believe when your by yourself writing or when your on social writing sites with other writers but a lot of people know nothing about writing. Many of them are just like I was before I began writing. I think back on all the things I didn’t know about writing like that MC stood for Main character. I didn’t know what scene’s were and I didn’t know exactly what plot points were. I didn’t know the differences between specific genres of writing. Sometimes its hard for writers to tone down their writing slang and jargon when talking to people who have never done anything with writing except what’s required in school. Non-writers talking to writers about writing is the same as an author talking to a dancer. Unless you’ve done some considerable dancing you most likely will have no idea what their talking about. So I’ve come up with 3 things you can do to talk to non-writers.

1. Try to tone down the jargon.

I know that this is the hardest thing to do but try putting yourself into their heads. Most people know only about writing what they learn in school. They know the terms Main Characters and Plot and Climax. They understand Rising Action, Falling Action, and Resolution. But unless they took a more advanced class on writing or are an avid reader they won’t understand that the Exposition and the Denouement are the same as the Setting and the Resolution. Sometimes placing yourself in their heads is the best thing you can do. This point is the hardest to do but the next is a little easier.

2. When explaining the plot of your novel explain by plot points for long version and explain by dust jacket for short versions.

I know one of the scariest things for writers is when people ask the dreaded question. “What’s your story about?”. Every writer hates when people ask this question. Let me make this problem easier. First, ask them in a polite way whether they would like the short version or the long version of the story.  If they ask for the long version then go by each plot point and tell them the story. Depending on the length of your story a plot point by plot point description can take a really long time. One time a discussion I had with another writer lasted a full 3 hours and that was only her book. It was a 6-7 hour discussion to get both our book descriptions and they were quite an enjoyable 7 hours. But most people who ask you will be non-writers who only want a short version. Anyone who’s ever read a book has read the back dust jacket of a book right? They’re usually a small synopsis only explaining who the main character is and what conflict arises. Try to think of how those are written and explain your book to them as a dust jacket description. This makes the question very easy to answer.

3. Remain polite and levelheaded.

As a fangirl I know that its hard to explain things about writing when you get excited. You begin to get super happy and sometimes that throws people off when they talk to you. You have to remember that a lot of the people who ask what you’re writing ask more out of politeness than curiosity, unless they’re a writer or reader themselves. Being polite to these kinds of people is hard because they don’t really care and sometimes their attitude about what you’re writing isn’t always the most polite, sometimes staring off into space when you talk. But you just have to put yourself into their head again. If you weren’t a writer and you liked something like, for example, politics, then when someone starts to talking to you about writing you might not really care at all. So being polite and calm is one of the most important things when talking to non-writers.

So now that you have these 3 tricks to talking with non-writers maybe your social interaction will raise greatly now that you kind of have an idea of how to deal with these types of people. Thanks for reading another post about the rambling of my thoughts.

Read, read, read.

READ, READ, READ

One of my favorite quotes by Stephen King says:

 “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Writers have to be readers—and not just readers of “how to write” books. I’m sure we all have a bunch of these—I do. But learning about the craft, and seeing it applied are two different things. And both are important for developing our own writing.

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We learn about writing by stretching ourselves, by trying out different genres.

Here’s a picture of a shelf in my office. The books that I read in the last few months and haven’t put away yet. Obviously, most are historical romance, but there’s also a few horror novels, some non-fiction, a few about the uses of poison, some how-to books, a biography, a grammar guide, a few YA, etc…

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So, why does it matter if we’re readers? Of course writers want to spend their time writing.

A few weeks ago, I borrowed a book from a friend, and as I was reading, I noticed that she’d marked it up. Underlined particularly great descriptions, taken notes in the margins about the author’s use of POV, some of the character traits she liked and didn’t like, times when she saw too much backstory, places where the narrative dragged…

She was reading as a writer.

Instead of saying, “I didn’t really connect with this character,” she marked passages where the character disappeared, or where she didn’t understand a motive.

Instead of Saying “the story moved too slowly,” she marked places where there was too much prose or backstory.

It was really fascinating to see how she’d used this novel as a textbook, and a way to improve her own craft.

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So, the moral of this story—Read Read Read. Read lots and vary your genres. Read as a writer, notice what works and what bothers you—and then spend some time figuring out why.

I’ll finish up with one more Stephen King quote:

“The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.”

by Jennifer Moore, TWC Chair