Get To Know Your Characters [NaNoWriMo Prep]

NaNo is coming! It’s about 20 days away… already. It’s coming up fast and there’s no stopping it.

Some people outline their novels, some people don’t. There are some people who do quick writing exercises or prompts as practice to prep for the upcoming writing streak. Some people don’t.

No matter what you do or don’t do, that’s okay. I personally love to outline and I love to try new things with my characters to get to know them a little better.

So, here’s a fun exercise to do with your characters.

NaNoWriMo 2017 Prep: Get To Know Your Characters

I got this idea from my 15-year-old cousin. She had English homework one night and had to do this for the protagonist of her summer reading book.

I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. I never had fun homework like that.

The idea is to think a bit outside the box and to get to know your characters on a deeper level. To the naked eye, it doesn’t make sense, but to a writer, it’s pretty clever.

So, ask yourself this:

Is your protagonist (or any character) more like…

  • May or December?
  • A Jeep, a Corvette, a Saturn, or a Mercedes Benz?
  • Brown or blue?
  • The letter A, the letter M, or the letter Z?
  • Vanilla ice cream or chocolate mousse?
  • New York, San Fransico, Salt Lake City, or New Orleans?
  • A hammer or a nail?
  • White, rye, or pumpernickel bread?
  • A short story, a poem, an essay, or a play?
  • Soap or dirt?
  • Fire, water, earth, or air?
  • A lock or a key?
  • The comics, the sports section, the business report, or the editorial page?
  • A snowstorm or a rainy day?
  • A horse show, a hockey match, or a track-and-field event?
  • A forest fire or a mountain stream?
  • A TV game show, a soap opera, a situation comedy, or a drama?
  • Science fiction, mystery, romance, or horror?
  • A cat, a dog, or a goldfish?

My cousin’s teacher had the class do this on themselves first so they could get a feel for the assignment. My cousin said she was more like “pumpernickel bread” because it’s a funny word. That right there actually sums up her personality. She’s a funny person and can sometimes be a dope. The fact that she immediately thought “pumpernickel” was a funny word and laughed just sums it all up.

With this exercise, you can get to the heart of your characters. It seems silly and random, but you just might learn something new about them.

Have you done anything like this before? Do you think you’ll try this exercise? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

Creating Characters: What’s Your Favorite Part?

Creating characters for your novels isn’t necessarily an easy task, but it’s important and it can be fun.

We talked a lot about characters this month. There’s a whole lot more to explore when it comes to characters, but I think we covered a decent amount. I’m sure there will be another month when I discuss characters again. (That means, yes. Yes, there will be another character-orientated month.)

So, I’m asking a simple question today. What’s your favorite part about creating characters?

creating-characters-favorite-part

A lot goes into bringing character to life and making them unique from other characters in your novel and other characters from other novels written by other people.

First, there’s the physical description. How long do you spend trying to decide whether or not your protagonist has brown, blonde, or purple hair? Did they get their green eyes from their mother or father? Or maybe from her great-great-aunt?

What kind of clothes do they wear? Do they always try to look presentable or do they just not care? Make-up? Jewelry?

How tall or short are they? Are they a twig or husky? Do they have a huge nose or teeny-tiny ears?

Then, there’s the personality. Are they self-conscious about that huge nose? Or do they not care what others think about them?

Are they nice to everyone or just their close friends? Are they pleasant to be around? Do they have any normal/weird habits or hobbies? What’s their favorite anything? Food, clothes, color, etc.

Third, you have their background story. What’s their family and home life like? Do they have any friends? A large group or just one best friend?

How did they get to where they are today? What kinds of decisions do they make?

Now here’s the important question: do you like to plan your characters out, like I just did above, or do you like free writing and see where they take you?

I think writing characters is so much fun because you can place them in certain worlds and situations that you can’t normally be part of. Your characters are a little piece of you and you live vicariously through them.

So, what’s your favorite part about creating your characters? Let me know in the comments below!

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Bookstagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

newsletter-signature

What’s In A Name?

This past April I wrote something a little different for Camp NaNoWriMo. Instead of my usual mystery novels or super-power fantasy novels, I decided to retell my favorite fairy tale.

I wrote The Lost Girl, a retelling of Peter Pan.

First things first, I had to do a bit of research about the time period. Peter Pan takes place in about 1904.

So, when coming up with a name for my lead female character, I looked up the most popular names from the 1900s. Grace was number 42 (according to the list I found).

I chose the name Grace because I think it’s a pretty name. It’s a common name. It’s simple. Even though it was popular way back then, it’s still pretty common.

The name Gwen is number 78 on that list. I like the name Gwen, but it’s never my first choice.

I was also trying to find a name for Grace’s mother as well. I ended up using Grace as my main character and a different name for her mother. Gwen didn’t make the cut at all. And to be honest, if a new female pops up in my story, I will not choose the name Gwen, no matter how big of a character she is.

Because while I don’t mind the name Gwen, there is just something about it. Something I don’t understand.

What's In A Name: Gwen

I’ve read a fair share amount of Peter Pan retellings lately. It’s partly why I decided to write my own. Peter Pan is my favorite and I thought of a great idea from the ABC show Once Upon A Time and from all the Peter Pan tales I had been reading.

If you follow my book reviews, you’ll know I’ve read some Peter Pan tales and I haven’t been a fan of a few of them. More than a few of them, actually. But I still add those tales to my to-be-read list anyway. They all sound good and I love Peter Pan, so why not give them a try?

I’ve noticed that fairy tale retellings have become pretty big lately and a lot of retellings that are coming out are about Peter Pan. This means getting The Lost Girl out in the world will either be pretty “easy” (I say that lightly) or really hard.

But I know there’s one thing my novel has that the others don’t: a different name.

Every time I go to my local bookstore with Kris, we always search through the young adult section. As I said, fairy tale retellings are what’s currently “in” at the moment and there are a lot of Peter Pan stories.

I found the novel Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell through Goodreads. The main character’s name is Gwen.

Then I found The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse at the bookstore. The main character’s name is Gwen.

There was another novel I found at the bookstore, but I can’t remember the name or author at the moment. What I do remember is that the main character’s name was–Drumroll, please–Gwen.

I went back to the bookstore a few days ago and discovered a new Peter Pan story titled Everland by Wendy Spinale. As I picked it up off the shelf, I said to Kris: “I swear, if the main character’s name is Gwen…”

I started reading the summary in the front cover flap and stopped after the second sentence, which read:

“The only ones who have survived the destruction and the outbreak of a deadly virus are children, among them sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey.” (Curtosy of Goodreads).

Why?

I don’t understand why the name Gwen is so popular among Peter Pan stories.

Is there something I’m missing? Is it a coincidence?

What I do know is that if I ended up choosing the name Gwen for my character, I would be changing it right now. Part of me wants to change Grace just because it starts with the letter “G.”

I don’t know if I’m overthinking things or not. I don’t even know if I have the right to be bothered by this. I just think it’s weird. None of these authors could choose a different name other than Gwen? Gwen doesn’t even have a special meaning that has anything to do with Peter Pan.

What’s even more strange is that Unhooked was published in February 2016. But The Neverland Wars was published May 9, 2016 while Everland was published May 10, 2016. All three books were by different publishers.

Weird, huh?

Names are important. And if you want your book to stand out from the rest, you have to give your characters names no one will forget; especially if you’re writing about the same topic as many others.

Have you ever noticed anything strange about different books like this? What do you think about this “Gwen” fad in Peter Pan stories? Let me know in the comments!

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

Ingredients for Mystery Soup

No two stories are alike. Each story is different and unique from another. Sure, there are cliches in the world of writing, but each outcome is different from the one before it. The possibilities are endless.

Yet, there are some things that each story have in common with each other: Elements. Or, ingredients as I like to call it.

It’s what makes a story a story.

Ingrediants for Mystery Soup Rachel Poli

All stories need five elements in order to make it a true, compelling tale.

1. Characters — The main person (or animal, alien, robot, what have you) the story revolves around. Plus, supporting characters to help or hinder the protagonist along.
2. Setting — The place where the story takes place.
3. Plot — A series of events and actions done by the character(s) that center around the conflict.
4. Conflict — The main struggle of the story. Usually, there are two sides to the conflict, good and bad, where your character is on one side.
5. Theme — The main idea or moral of the whole story.

Sounds easy enough, right? Sure.

But what does this mean when you’re writing a mystery novel? I’ll tell you what sort of ingredients you’ll need in order for you readers to beg you for dessert.

Characters

There are four main types of characters you’ll need for a mystery novel.

1. Detectives — Who is solving the crime here? No, you’re “detective” does not have to be part of the law enforcement. Your detective could be a young adult investigating on his or her own trying to figure out what truly caused their parents’ car accident.

2. Victims — Did they die? If so, I’m sure they had friends and family. Were they robbed? They need to be around to report the crime and give their statement. Maybe they have their own suspicions of who did it.

3. Suspects — Someone has to be the culprit. A crime doesn’t commit itself. Then again, your protagonist can’t catch the bad guy on their first go. There should be more than one suspect.

4. Witnesses — Someone might have seen something or at least heard something. Someone has to call the police. Maybe they’re the one who walked in on the dead body. Who knows?

Setting

Just like any other story, the setting is important. You want your readers to have a good sense of where they are and what’s going on, right?

Did your crime take place in a large city where crime happens multiple times a day? Or maybe a small, secluded town where the population is five and crime almost never happens there. Invite the reader to these places.

Someone, most likely the protagonist, will have to investigate the crime scene, right? Let’s assume there’s a dead body in the room… where is the body? Does it look clean? Does the scene have blood splattered everywhere? Is the place a mess (signs of a struggle) or pretty clean?

Give your readers some clues as your protagonist finds them. Give your readers a chance to investigate with your characters and possibly figure it out before them.

Plot

Most mystery plots come in the form of questions. These questions need to be answered by the end of the story or you’ll have some pretty angry readers.

Mystery plots can include:

  • A problem or puzzle that needs solving
  • Something that is difficult to explain
  • Secrets, the unknown
  • Something or someone that is missing
  • A crime that’s committed (robbery, murder, etc.)

Conflict

As stated before, a conflict is mainly between two sides. For mystery, the sides would be the good guys trying to solve the crime and the other side would be the bad guys running and hiding so they don’t get caught. Or the bad guys have a reason for what they did, but your main character doesn’t believe in their theories.

For conflict in a mystery, you need…

1. A crime — Basically the plot of the story. Who, what, where, when, why, when, and how?

2. Clues and evidence — Help your readers solve the crime alongside your protagonist. Give them “a-ha!” moments when they find a new clue and piece it together with evidence. No one is going to get anywhere solving the crime without any clues.

3. Red-herrings — Red-herrings are distractions, false evidence, dead-ends, whatever you want to call it. No one can solve a crime perfectly on their first try. They may view a clue the wrong way. Maybe a witness led them astray, whether done on purpose or not is up to you.

Theme

Well. This one is pretty much up to you. You decide what moral lesson you want your characters to teach your readers.

Well, now that we have all the ingredients to make our mystery novel, let’s mix it all together and begin!

Pre-heat the Oven

The beginning of your mystery novel should introduce everything. The characters, the setting, the plot. Your characters should figure out there is a problem and begin to learn how to solve it.

Bake

The middle of the story will include your characters finding clues, piecing together evidence, investigating crime scenes, interrogating key witnesses, making mistakes, making breakthroughs. Finally, they’ll have their “a-ha!” moment.

Time to eat!

The ending is where everything gets wrapped up. Your investigator explains the whole crime from beginning to end making sure there are no loose ends for your reader, no more questions asked. The culprit is then taken away and everyone else can celebrate.

At that point, you should go bake yourself a cake in real life. Because that’s when the editing begins.

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest | GoodReads

Inspiration Station: Anatomy of A Character

Anatomy of a character inspiration station

I know some people like to allow their characters to develop naturally through the course of the story. Others don’t know anything about their characters until they write them down. Then there are some who plan and plan and plan their characters out.

For me, it all depends on the novel.

For my George Florence series I had personalities in mind for my characters. Then I wrote them and they turned out completely different.

For my Take Over novel I had their personalities planned and so far they’re sticking to them.

For my Diary of a Lover novel, I let the characters run the show.

So you never really know what is going to happen whether you plan or not.

However, there are definitely a few things you should know about your character before writing them:

1. First and last name
2. Gender
3. Age
4. Career and/or Education

As long as you know those four key points (and I guess number four could be optional) I think your character can wing it for the novel.

Then again, it can be fun to plan. If you are a planner for your characters then I would suggest this:

Character Chart by EpiGuide.

It’s a very in depth profile for your characters. Some information most likely isn’t needed, but a lot of the information is something you wouldn’t even think to include.

It’s fun to try anyway.

How to Name Your Characters

Naming Your Characters: First Names

Your name is part of what makes you you. That’s no different from the characters in your story.

Some people say that names aren’t important. It’s the description and development throughout the story that creates loveable, relateable characters.

I think names are pretty important as well. Plus, they’re a lot of fun.

There are two ways I come up with names for my characters:

1. I check the meanings behind them.

I love to look up various names and check their meanings. It makes the character feel more one with the story, if that makes any sense.

I think it shows that you put thought into the name of your character. It shows that your character is important to the plot somehow. It’s like the Story Gods have chosen that name for your character because they have a big destiny to fulfill–which is your plot.

For example, in the very first novel I wrote, Diary of a Lover, I named the protagonist Venus. Venus is love-struck by a boy in her class. She comes on too strong. She doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.

Knowing that little bout of information about her, I chose the name Venus for a few reasons.

One, Venus is also known as the Goddess of Love. The meaning of her name is literally “love.” Right off the bat, that tells you something about Venus.

Two, Venus is a unique name that you don’t hear very often. This makes her stand out as a character. It tells you she is someone important. Plus, because it’s not a common name, you’ll always think of her when you think of Venus.

2. I do the complete opposite of checking the meaning–I come up a random name on my own.

This kind of contradicts everything I just said, but there are no right or wrong ways to name your characters.

If you create a character and a name suddenly pops into your head… Use it. There was probably a reason that name was your first instinct.

For example, I came up with the name George for my George Florence series because I was trying to think of a “goofy” name. At first, George was a goofy detective, but George Constanza from Seinfeld popped into my head. Thus, George was born. I don’t know what made me think of Seinfeld, but the name stuck.

George’s personality has changed drastically since then, but I’ve written George for a few years now that he has just become one with his name. He’s grown into it and it suits him.

Names can have a lot of meaning behind the characters. Choose wisely.

I have a baby name book that I tend to use a lot, but here are some of my favorite websites to find names:

Baby Names
Baby Name Genie
Behind the Name
Fantasy Name Generator

Did you like this post? You can read about Last Names here!

Character Spotlight: Hunter Gray

CS Hunter Gray

Today I’m showcasing the male protagonist of my NaNo novel, Second Chances.

You can also read all about Lesley Chapman if you want.

Questions for the Author

What is your character’s name? Does he/she have a nickname?

Hunter Gray is his full name. Aside from maybe his mother, no one calls him anything else.

What color is his/her hair? What color are his/her eyes?

Hunter has blonde, fluffy hair and blue eyes.

Who are your character’s friends and family?

Hunter doesn’t have any siblings. His father has long passed away and his mother was sick for a long time. He spent most of his time taking care of his mother. He doesn’t have many friends, either. The friends he does have tend to get into a lot of trouble.

Where does your character live?

Hunter lives in a house with his mother. For the majority of the story, he “lives” in jail as he’s being tried for murder.

What is his/her biggest fear?

Hunter has many fears. He’s afraid that his mother will never get better, he’s afraid that he’ll get locked away for the rest of his life even though he feels as though he deserves it.

Has your character ever been in love and/or had a broken heart?

Yes and yes. In the beginning of the novel we see Hunter fall out of love and then get his heart broken not too long afterwards. It’s bittersweet.

What kind of clothes does he/she wear?

Hunter loves to be comfortable and casual. He enjoys jeans and sweatshirts when he’s out and about. If he’s in the house, he’ll stay in sweatpants.

What is he/she doing on his/her day off?

Hunter enjoys staying home on his days off. He takes care of his mother so he tries to keep up with the cooking and cleaning whenever he doesn’t have school or work.

What is his/her overall personality like?

He always tries to do the right thing. He cares for others, but he also cares about what they think about him. He quickly gets self-conscious thus getting himself into trouble.

Questions for the Character

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

“I was able to get a full-time to support my mother when my father died without a college degree. I know it’s better to have a degree, but I needed to work with what I had. And I had no money.”

What is it that you most dislike?

 “Fake people. I know a lot of people who are fake and only talk to you because they think they can get something out of you. It’s not fair.”

What is your greatest regret?

“Making friends with the wrong crowd. They got me into drinking and I made the biggest mistake of my life. I drank and drive and accidentally killed a person. I wish I could go back in time, but all I can do is pay the consequences.”

What is your best trait?

“I try to help a lot of people. I’ve been unfortunate with growing up without a father, a sick mother, and no money. I don’t judge anyone and put myself in their shoes whether they’re in a better situation than me or not.”

What is your worst flaw?

“I get pretty down on myself a lot. No one likes to be around someone who is always negative and doesn’t have respect for themselves.”

What is your hobby?

“I like doing jigsaw puzzles. It relaxes me and helps me look at life in a different way. Everything is jumbled up and a mess, but once everything falls into place, it will be beautiful and everything will work out.”

Who do you most admire?

“My mother. Even though she’s been sick all this time, she still manages to smile and stay positive.”

6 Tips on Naming Characters

IS 6 Tips on Naming Characters

It’s not as easy to name characters for a book as it seems.

Just like the plot, setting, and word choice, names take a lot of thought from the author.

1. Make sure we can pronounce the name.

Can you pronounce Iphnkch? Neither can I.

2. Use a unique name.

I don’t know anybody named Iphnkch, but there are other unique names out there. Flip through a baby name book and pick out out of the ordinary names that maybe you haven’t heard of before.

Also, it might not hurt to make up names once in a while, especially if you’re writing in the science fiction and fantasy genre. When I make up names I scramble the letters in names I know. For example, I have a character name Lechar in one of my novels. I spelled “Rachel” backwards to make “Lehcar” and then switched the “C” and “H” to make the sound flow better.

2. Check the meaning of the name.

The meaning behind a name can be a hit or miss. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t. Some readers will already know the meaning behind some names, some readers won’t. Some readers may look up the meaning, others won’t. However, I do think checking the meaning of a name is fun for the writer and can hold a hidden meaning behind the plot–if the reader does decide to look up the meaning. Maybe that’s just me, though.

3. Check the setting and era of your story and name choice.

Check the top 100 names for each year. Check the origin of each name. The top baby names from the 1950s are much different from what they are today. Also, make sure you get the origin right. It’s doesn’t make much sense to have a female born and raised in Japan and speaking Japanese knowing no English named Amanda.

4. Let the first and last names flow together.

When I say let the first and last names flow well, I mean watch the syllables. You don’t want the first name to be one syllable and the last name be six syllables long. It will take the reader a while to get through and may end up twisting their tongue. I prefer having both names being anywhere between one syllable and four syllables, occasionally five syllables.

Alliteration is also fun, too. If you want someone’s name to stand out and roll right off the tongue, alliteration is the way to go.

5. Choose carefully.

There’s about 7 billion people on this earth, according to Google. There are too many people to count with the same first name. Ironically enough, there are plenty of people out there with the same first and last name. Make sure you give each name justice and make a note that each character is purely fictional and not based off of anyone in any way, shape, or form. You never know who might be offended, especially if they’re name is used as a murderer.

You also probably want to make sure the name isn’t from a main character of another big novel or series. For example, you shouldn’t name your character Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen.

6. Nicknames and middle names.

Nicknames are fun. I think a nickname definitely shows personality in the characters. Some people have nicknames based on their full names (for example, Nicholas and Nick) and some have nicknames based on something they love or something they did. It’s almost like a memorial for something. Nicknames can mean a lot of things, so have fun with that. Also, it says a lot when certain people call the character by their full name and others call the character by their nickname.

Middle names are a hit or miss. There is no reason we should know any character’s middle name unless something huge is happening, like they’re taking a big test or doing something for the government. Even then, a middle initial would probably suffice. I give all my characters middle names just in case. If you give your character a middle name, you should make sure the middle name flows along with the first and last names.

Hanging Out With Fictional People

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest
Show of hands: who would want to hang out with fictional characters?

Let’s be honest… pretty much all of us would, right?

What if you could only hang out with the characters from one novel? Which novel would you pick?

What if you could only hang out with one character from each novel? Would you pick the main characters or secondary ones?

What if you could only hang out with characters that you’ve created? So, that means no hanging out with Harry Potter!

At least one character from all the novels I’ve written have a piece of me in them. So if I chose to hang out with them, I’d be hanging out with myself pretty much.

I’ve been putting all my effort into my novel George Florence so I would love to hang out with him and Lilah, but I would also love to meet the characters from my other novels, as well.

I think it would be a very tough decision if I had to narrow it down to just one book or just one character.

What about you?

People Watching

I went on a mini-vacation with my sister and parents this past weekend. It was a great time and we had a lot of fun.

We went to the aquarium (which is my favorite), walked around the seaport, got ice cream, went shopping, etc.

On the way home, we pass by a casino that my parents go to every so often. My sister and I have never been there before, so we decided to stop in and hang out there for a few hours to avoid traffic.

I didn’t win anything, but it was still a lot of fun. In the end I only lost 20 dollars because that lasted me the entire few hours we were there. In that sense I did better than my parents and sister. So I guess that can be called a win.

The place was huge to have so many different gambling areas. It also had its own outlet stores inside. We didn’t shop at all, but we did walk around to look at what kind of stores they had.

It was interesting being in a casino from a writer’s point of view. It’s fun to people watch. To people watch in a casino… Well, that’s a lot more fun.

I feel like the casino would have made a great setting for a story and some of the people would make interesting characters; whether you tried to write their story or if they were just minor characters hanging out in the background.

–The lady in the bathroom: I was washing my hands and there was a woman at the sink next to me. She took out a bunch of 20s from her purse; she must have had at least 1,000 dollars–or that’s what it looked like. She just took them out of her purse and fanned them out in her hand and stared at them as though she was alone. Now, did she bring that money to spend? Or did she win it all? By the way she admired it, it seemed to me as though she won it.

–The lady with three machines: There was a lady sitting at a slot machine and both machines on her right and left were vacant. So naturally she took over all three machines. You should have seen how fast she was pushing those buttons. And from what I could tell, she wasn’t winning anything on either machine.

–The man who drank, smoked, and lost: I think that sums it up; a man sat at one machine lighting one cigarette after another, drinking down his alcohol, and kept losing on one machine. We left that room and when we went back to it later, he was still at the same machine doing his thing.

I don’t go to casinos nearly often enough to label people, but I’m sure you guys can use your imagination. I’m sure you can also imagine what other kind of people were there whether you’ve been to a casino or not.

There are interesting characters all over the place. You just have to watch out for them.

Problems with Protagonists

Last Saturday I had another meeting with my writing group. Two people couldn’t make it which meant that I was critiqued by four people this month.

Many of you know I’m working on a mystery series titled George Florence. It was originally called Detective Florence and decided to change it.

Everyone in my group seems to enjoy the novel really well so far. I’m happy with it and I’m happy with the feedback they’ve given me, both good and bad.

Now, before I explain my problem, I have to say that I’ve been thinking about making some changes to my novel. One, I’ve been rethinking the POV. Right now it’s in first person with George as the narrator since he’s the protagonist. The more I write this series (three books written so far) the more I wonder if it should be third person limited.

Why? I’m not entirely sure. But if I’m thinking this then somewhere in the back of my mind must have some good reason, right? It wouldn’t hurt to try, right?

Okay, now I’ll explain my problem…

No one in my writing group really likes George. They all love and adorable Lilah, who is the female protagonist, but George is the main-main character… and they think he’s a wuss.

As sad as I am to admit, I agree with them. George does not have the personality I originally intended for him to have.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

George has been a character in my mind for years. I first thought of him while writing in a notebook at Barnes & Noble with my sister. I had about 40 or so pages written. The plot was different, the characters were different, the setting was different… the only thing that remained true over the years was George and the title. Lilah wasn’t even a sparkle in my eye at that time.

For an experienced detective, George certainly should not be acting the way he does. Lilah takes charge, she’s bossy, she knows what she’s doing–when she probably shouldn’t.

I told them I knew George needed to be flushed out more. I told them I was thinking of changing the POV. I also told them that Lilah seems to have squeezed her way through and started taking over the story without my consent.

Their advice? Screw George. Write Lilah’s story.

The group coordinator brought up a good point and told me that if Lilah is itching to be told, then she needs her own story as soon as possible. This is Lilah’s way of telling me that she needs to be the lead on a story.

We all know that its the characters who write the story, not the author, so when he said this I completely understood and agreed with him.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The problem is… I feel like I’m cheating on George. Of course, he would still be in the story. He would still be the detective. The plot, characters, setting, etc. would be the same. It would just be from Lilah’s point of view.

So, here are my options:

1. Keep editing and revising until George strengthens and grows against his will
2. Rewrite story in third person with George as main character… see if that makes a difference
3. Rewrite story in first person with Lilah leading the way
4. Rewrite story in third person with Lilah in the lead

Four options… doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot to take in.

George Florence is the fifth novel I’ve completed, but the first one I’ve ever been truly serious about. It’s hard trying to figure out what’s best for the novel.

The novel is already written has been edited before. The draft I’ve been sending my group is the second draft. I’ll probably keep sending them the next parts of this draft like nothing happened. Maybe George will seem like he improves throughout the story.

In the meantime, I will try to rewrite the first part with Lilah in charge. Depending on how well that turns out, then the novel may get a huge makeover.

It’s especially troublesome because I love George, even though he didn’t come out as planned. I feel bad kicking him to main male instead of main protagonist. But ultimately it comes down to this question: how can I expect to sell a novel with a protagonist no one likes?

What are your thoughts on this: has this ever happened to you? What do you think I should do?

Camp NaNo: New Characters

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

I wrote 3,010 words this morning. My official word count for Camp NaNoWriMo at the moment is 19,034 words. I would have liked to hit 20,000 words this morning, but I wanted to post on here and then I have to get ready for work (technically, I should be getting ready for work now).

I think it was on day two or three of Camp that I introduced a new character into my novel, Anonymous Tip (which is  a George Florence novel).

I didn’t expect her to come into the story. I didn’t think she would even exist. Her name is Celeste and she’s the mother of two side characters, so obviously she exists because those other two characters had to come from somewhere, right? Yet, she wasn’t supposed to make an appearance and she managed to push her way through anyway.

If you knew her personality, which is a stubborn and head-strong, you can easily see why she made herself known in the novel.

It’s a good thing because poor George and Lilah had a case, but they didn’t have a client. Well, this woman barged into my story and into their lives and now they have a client. So, I guess she has a purpose after all.

This morning, another new character came into play. I debated on introducing her to the series eventually, but I didn’t think it would be in this novel.

Her name is Ingrid Florence. Yes, George’s mother.

She and Celeste butt heads a lot. So, naturally when Celeste made an appearance, Ingrid felt as though she needed to join in as well.

Ingrid hasn’t actually been in the novel, yet. She left a message on George’s answering machine, but already I can tell that she too has a strong personality. Yet, she seems a lot nicer than Celeste.

I wonder if Ingrid and Celeste are going to end up in a scene together? I’m sure that would be interesting to see.

How are your novels coming along? Have any unexpected characters come for a visit?

Character Spotlight: Xavier Barron

Questions for the Author:

What is your character’s name? Does he/she have a nickname?

One of the male characters in Detective Florence is Xavier Barron. He does not have any nicknames because he doesn’t like them.

What color is his/her hair? What color are his/her eyes?

Xavier has short, slick back hair. He has brown eyes.

Who are your character’s friends and family?

Xavier doesn’t have too many friends. He used to be very good friends with George, but they lost touch when George lost his job at the police station. Ever since then Xavier has had a bad attitude and no one really wants to be around him. He’s kind of a loner and no one knows what changed him. No one knows anything about his family. He doesn’t like to talk about his personal life.

Where does your character live?

Again, Xavier doesn’t like to discuss his personal life. No one knows where Xavier lives, whether it’s an apartment or a house, if he lives alone or with roommates or even with pets.

What is his/her biggest fear?

Xavier’s biggest fear is not being a good detective. He always tries to do the best he can and he doesn’t like to receive help from anyway. He has big plans for his career and hopes he doesn’t mess it up.

Has your character ever been in love and/or had a broken heart?

Xavier has never been in love, but he has had a broken heart. As the author, that’s all I can say for now.

What kind of clothes does he/she wear?

Xavier always wears suits. Even on his day off, he doesn’t like to dress down.

What is he/she doing on his/her day off?

Xavier tries to constantly work. If he’s in the middle of a case and he has a few hours off at the end of the day, he still tries to figure it out. When he’s home, he tries to keep his mind sharp by doing puzzles or riddles. He can’t sit still and always has to be on the move.

What is his/her overall personality like?

Xavier has changed since George left the police station. He used to be friendly and laid back. Now he’s serious and tense which is a turn off for everyone else.

Questions for the Character:

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

“My greatest achievement is becoming a detective. George and I used to be partners, but when he got let go I was bumped up in the ranks. I learned a lot while working with George, but I think I’ve learned more without him. I’m happy I was able to continue doing my best without him.”

What is it that you most dislike?

“I hate being wrong or being helped. George’s new agency is so annoying because he’s always trying to butt into our work. If there’s a case, I can handle. I don’t even need Barney to help me out.”

What is your greatest regret?

“I guess I feel a little bad for not being able to maintain my relationships with my co-workers. But it’s not my fault none of them work as hard as I do.”

What is your best trait?

“I’m great at what I do. I’m an awesome detective, I’ve solved a lot of crimes and I’ve helped a lot of people.”

What is your worst flaw?

“I’ll admit it, I’m not a people person. I’m able to help people when there’s a crime that needs to be solved, but I have a hard time when it comes to dealing with friends or family or anyone else. I don’t know what to do if there’s no evidence.”

What is your hobby?

“Puzzles and riddles. I don’t really enjoy watching TV. Occasionally I will read a book, but I don’t have much time to have a hobby. I work too much.”

Who do you most admire?

“It’s hard to pick someone I admire. There have been some pretty great detectives way back when. I can only hope I can be remembered just as great as those guys.”

March: Inspiration Board

The March #YearOfHappy was to create an inspiration board. The idea was to create an actual board and hang it somewhere where you can look and admire it every day.

I’ll admit I cheated with this one.

I decided to use my virtual board, so to speak. I add things on there all the time, so why not share it with everyone here? It has everything on there that inspires me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a board for it.

That’s right… I’m talking about my Pinterest.

I currently have 93 boards. All are things that inspire me. Here are just a few:

Writing (I have writing, research, vocabulary, names, editing, characters, and blogging)
Teaching (I have a general teaching board, plus many different units in their own individual boards, plus special education)
Sunday School
Reading (I even have a board for the books I’ve read)

Considering that I have 93 boards, that’s not even a dent. I have different video game boards like Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda as well as different movies (The Lord of the Rings) and TV shows (Once Upon A Time).

All 93 boards inspire me in more ways than one. If you don’t know me personally, you would just need to look at my Pinterest profile and you’ll get to know to me in an instant.

So, if you want to see the kinds of things I love then I suggest you check out my Pinterest profile.

I add to my boards all the time and I’m sure there will be more than 93 boards in time.

Outlining: Tips And Ideas

To outline or not to outline… that is the question.

Last week I wrote a post called, “Why Outline?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Why should you outline your novel? I gave a list of a few (good) reasons, but ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to outline your novel or not. It’s no big deal if you decide not to.

However, if you do decide to outline your novel here are a few interesting ways to do so (if you don’t already have a particular way to outline).

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Snowflake Method: Show of hands: who has heard of this before? I have, but have I ever used it? No. I had to do a bit of research for this one because I didn’t really know what it’s about. Basically, it’s a 10-step process on how to organize your writing. You start from a small summary of the novel and go from there. The last step is to begin your first draft.

Now I know it seems like a lot of steps just to go from idea to first draft, but the idea behind it is to start small and take baby steps in organizing your mind and thoughts.

This is to ensure you don’t miss anything while you write the story. All the scenes will be laid out for you, all the characters will be unique and have a certain purpose, and (hopefully) there will be no plot holes.

Does this mean you won’t have to do any editing when the first draft is done? Of course not.

That would be too easy.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Skeletal Outline: You know that pyramid thing you learn in elementary/middle school? Well, some people actually put that to good use when they write their novels.

They use this pyramid (plot diagram, according to the picture) to summarize each part. Each part being the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. By summarizing, you write certain scenes you want, describe what the characters are going to do and what’s going to happen to them, etc.

Some people use bullet points to highlight key concepts in each part. Personally, I think the bullet points would be easier. Then again, it wouldn’t be as detailed… unless you use a lot of bullet points.

Like the Snowflake Method, I do not use this method. To be honest, I don’t even think of my novels in terms of exposition, rising/falling action, climax, resolution, what have you. I just kind of go with the flow and write the scenes in order as they would go.

However, if I had to choose between these two methods, I think I would go for the skeletal outline. I enjoy making lists and the pyramid seems to do just that. Then again, I’m sure you could modify each method to make a unique one that works specifically for you.

20150124_151016Chapter Summary: This is how I used to outline. Way back when I wrote fan fiction. 11 years ago. Wow.

Anyway, I have no idea if anyone has ever outlined like this before, but it worked for me way back when. I don’t use that way now, but I still think it’s a decent way to outline your novel.

All I did was summarize each chapter. It’s that simple. As you can see from the picture, it ultimately looks like a block of letters (especially with my handwriting). The highlighted parts show a new chapter. Everything written after each highlight is a summary of that chapter.

I explain what scenes are going to be in the chapter, sometimes I add in some dialogue I would like some characters to say… I even have notes that say things such as: “foreshadowing… yay!” You know, so I remember how to write my plot so readers can figure out the foreshadowing, symbolism, and all that fun stuff. I especially make those notes when I realize I foreshadowed without meaning to. It’s like your subconscious is smarter than you.

There you have it. Three different ways to outline your novel, plus more (if you click on the links below). Two I’ve never used and one I used to use all the time. Everyone works differently and at their own pace. So the outlines listed above may or may not work for you; especially if outlining isn’t even your thing. However, it never hurts to try.

As stated before (many times, actually) I use my own method I made up. Well, I thought I made it up, but I have seen it floating around on the Internet. It’d be pretty cool if I had my own method, though. It’s different, but similar to the chapter summary I used to do.

But more on that tomorrow.

Further Reading:

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel
8 Ways to Outline a Novel
7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story