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February 07 2018

Creating Character Profiles That Are Actually Useful to Your Story

tlbodine:

You can’t travel more than a few feet on social media or writer websites or sites full of writer toys without stumbling face-first into character sheet templates. Lists of questions and prompts about getting to know your characters can be fun, but they’re not going to help you write your story. 

In fact, knowing too much about your characters can be crippling because it makes them inflexible. The more your characters feel “real” before you get started writing, the more likely you’re going to bump into the problem where the plot demands that they do something that you’ve decided they would never do. It helps to have your characters be a bit more open-ended and flexible so that you can learn about them as you write. 

This is what I’ve been doing for character sheets: 

An image (fun fact, I actually made the doll first and then found a stock photo that resembled the doll, lol), a little blurb on personality and appearance, and a bit of relevant backstory. Here are some tips: 

Write the description in a way that suggests some personality traits. 

Practice writing it in a prose style here, too. I’ve found that every character tends to have a core vocabulary for describing them, like certain adjectives or metaphors – here’s a place to experiment with some. You’re not describing basic appearance (there’s already a spot for a picture!), you’re writing a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts description that hints at character. 

Focus on paradox and conflict in the personality. 

The easiest way to quickly create depth in a character is to give them some conflicting traits and then figure out how they make that work. So like Sean up there is bookish but also athletic; emotionally reserved but deeply romantic. You can’t just make a list of conflicting traits, though – you have to figure out how they express themselves, how they rationalize themselves, what that looks like. But once you nail that, your characters will feel 1000x more real. 

Build a history that is relevant to your plot 

You actually don’t need to know all the details of your character’s childhood. In fact, it helps a lot to come up with those details on the fly as necessary to create your plot. You can keep track of these revelations on your character sheet as they become apparent to you, but before you start writing you should focus on the important parts: What are they doing in the story, and how did they get there? What were they doing right before the story started? What decisions did they make that put them in this place? 

The most important questions: What do they want, and what’s stopping them? 

Hopefully this is helpful when you set out to populate your stories :) 

WRITER REAL TALK

thekatiemasters:

Dear Writer/Author/Person just embarking on this thing called ‘the writing life’, 

IT IS OKAY TO LOVE YOUR WORK. 

IT IS OKAY TO BE PROUD OF YOUR WORK.

IT IS OKAY TO SAY “THANK YOU” WHEN SOMEONE COMPLIMENTS IT/YOU

IT IS OKAY TO READ YOUR WORK AND LIKE IT

IT IS OKAY TO TALK ABOUT YOUR STORY AND WORLDS

IT. IS. OKAY. TO. BE. PROUD. OF. YOURSELF.

Seriously. Please don’t knock your writing! Every time you write something good and then say “This is just a fluke/this is only one good sentence/oh who’m I kidding”, that’s not you. THAT IS THE VOICE OF EVERYONE WHOSE EVER DOUBTED YOU THAT YOU BELIEVED. 

BE PROUD OF YOUR WORK. BE PROUD OF YOURSELF. 

WHO DO YOU WANT TO BELIEVE MORE? THE VOICES OF THOSE WHO DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU SUCCEED, OR THE BEAUTIFUL WORDS YOU JUST MADE PROVING THEM WRONG?

February 03 2018

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lieutenant-sapphic:

me staring at a blank google doc for twenty minutes

January 29 2018

bardsona:

nothing is funnier to me than the universal phenomenon of people telling stories of classmates who wronged them years prior but addressing those people by like, their entire name every time. as if they’re an old nemesis whose name hasn’t been uttered in thousands of years. people will recall to you in excruciating detail that time in the third grade that fuckin katie hughes pushed them off the swing during recess and you’d swear by the vigor and hatred in their eyes that this katie hughes girl is still out there to this very day, still tormenting other helpless people her age, still pushing them off of swingsets, and that she will never, ever be forgiven for the particular atrocity that she committed on that playground all those years ago

flightyfinch:

moveslikejoker:

danascullys:

tumblr: “550 words to say instead of said”

me: do you know what happens……if you’re afraid to use “said”??????

i will not tolerate my immortal being eternally dragged through the mud like this when jowling k rowling is without a doubt the worse offender

harperperennial:

unforgettabledetritus:

Let’s talk about libraries. Libraries! “Oh, hello, are you a person? Great, you’ve met our qualifications. Please enjoy unlimited borrowing of any number of any books. Do we not have the book you seek? Let us know and we will buy it so that you can read it. You will owe us nothing. Stay as long as you want.” Libraries are like pleasant, real-life morphine dreams.

Respect.

January 28 2018

How to Write a Credible Genius

artattemptswriting:

Genius is often thought of as synonymous with “intelligent” or “smart” or “eidetic memory and know-it-all.” but that isn’t the case. True genius, or at least in terms of traits and characterization, is the ability to use what you have in ways that others won’t. Some geniuses are obviously smart, and some are geniuses in ways so subtle that the character appears deluded.

This is something I can (and have) talked about for hours at various unfortunate people. “Genius characters” is actually an umbrella term that covers a whole range of character Archetypes, from the Sherlock Holmes to the Tortured Mastermind; each one is different, because the genius of a character is inherently subjective. There are a lot of cross-overs from archetype to archetype, and the overlap can be really interesting to use when creating your genius character, but I’ve broken them up as best I can by defining characteristics for simplicity.

Remember to use the archetype as a base and build on from there, to make your genius characters as interesting as possible; they may be geniuses, but they are also human. Flesh them out, lace nuances into their character, make them hate reading or like videogames.

The Ignorant Intellectual

image

I.e, the Dirk Gently.

The Gently-esque archetype is a perfect place to start, because it really demonstrates the subjective nature of a genius character. Arguably, Dirk isn’t a genius at all— he simply follows where the universe takes him, acting on the whims and impulses it gives him, so how can he be a genius?—but the genius comes in when he joins the dots together. He hasn’t been made smart by the holistic power that the universe gave him, but he has learned to adapt and survive.

This kind of genius is defined by a lack of large quantities of knowledge, but a certain intellectual capacity. These characters are usually thrown into (or willing walk into) situations, completely ignorant, where their true genius shines through their ability to talk fast, think outside the box and learn as they go along. They are also enablers, which is what sets the Ignorant Intellectual apart from the Holmes-type genius; whereas a Holmes would have the answer before anyone else, a Gently would find an answer by helping others see it first. For example, they might make one connection that is really obscure, and that will allow others to suddenly work out the rest. As such, these types are great survivors, often through luck and clever bullshitting, but they’re at their best with others.

The Naturally Intelligent Intuit

image

I.e, The Sherlock Holmes

And I mean bookHolmes folks, not BBC Sherlock. The Holmes we see on the BBC TV series is better classified as a Tortured Genius; he has natural intelligence, true, but he’s cold and lacks intuition on the same level as his book counterpart.

The Holmes archtype possesses natural intelligence combined with a depth of warmth and intuition. They may often be arrogant or appear aloof, but only because they are ignorant of the superior speed that their mind can work at, or forgetful of it. The thing here is natural intelligence; anyone can learn to think intelligently, but very few are born with a natural ability to process and store information, and then apply it innovatively. However, this intelligence alone doesn’t make for a genius character: they should also possess very good intuition, which is always backed up by evidence supplied by their intelligent logic.

Holmes was a trailblazer in this area. He practically made the archetype, as a matter of fact, but there are aspects of his character that ought to be kept separate. One of these is his reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms, and another is his tendency to be erratic or eccentric—both of these are traits that defined him as a person-character, rather than marks of his genius archetype.

The Tortured Genius

image

I.e, the Victor Frankenstein

Although not inherently evil, these characters are often plain nasty people—but it’s not their fault, obviously! They would say something like “It’s because I’m so smart, nobody understands me, I’m tortured by my own intelligence to the point where I am are alienated from society—!”

No, Victor, sweetie, it’s because you’re an arrogant arsehole. The archtype isn’t quite that simple, but Doctor Frankenstein is a very good example of the fundamental basics.

I like this one for its flexibility. I mentioned that BBC Sherlock is a Tortured Genius and while book Sherlock almost fits the shoe, his saving grace is his humility and warmth. On the other hand, characters like Doctor Frankenstein and BBC Sherlock are arrogant, and either refuse to acknowledge their flaws or, acknowledging them, refuse to better them. Sometimes, a character like this will actively be worse. BBC’s Sherlock is actually a pretty cheap take on the Tortured Genius, but that may also be because he isn’t a very well-substantiated interpretation of the book canon… anyway, I digress. The point here is that these characters are complex to the point where they twist themselves into knots, often shaped by tragedy or trauma.

They see themselves one way, and the world another. A tortured genius could be anything from initially mild-mannered to downright cruel; either way, their internal or first intentions are usually good. They tend to change throughout their story, as their flaws get in the way and they wrestle with the feeling that nobody is ever going to truly understand who they are. The result is a lot of internalised rage or self-hatred, until they explode or start a downwards spiral of unhealthy coping mechanisms. They often have at least three of the following:

  • A fear of failure that pushes them to extremes
  • Hubris (excessive pride)
  • Arrogance, so much so that they think they can do the impossible (solve impossible cases, reverse death, create life etc)
  • Narcissism designed to cover up serious self-esteem issues
  • Put too much pressure on themselves; think they can reach unattainable goals and experience a huge drop of self-worth when they fail.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Either actively shun others or are shunned because they make no effort to include others that they deem less intelligent.
  • Equate worth to intelligence (see above point)

Something to be wary of is the mental health aspect of a tortured genius. It’s true that these characters are usually depressed or considered insane, but the poor mental health is always caused by their actions, rather than their mental health issues causing them to be a tortured genius. Remember, this archetype is never a very nice person which leads to them being miserable; however, if you had a person with Schizophrenia and they were also a genius when their plot began, they would struggle, yes, but it isn’t the same thing. Anyone with a pre-existing mental health condition would.

Don’t use mental health issues to drive a character like this, because they never excuse the sort of behaviour that the archetype calls for and this only strengthens the stereotype of people with mental health issues being dangerous.

The Accidental Pedant

image

I.e, the Spencer Reid.

I like to call this one the soft genius. They’re the most genuine, kind-hearted of the lot. Half of the time, they don’t even realise their own genius until it’s pointed out to them, and the other half of the time they’re aware of it but don’t consider this aspect of their personality as anything other than a cool way to store information. Usually, their genius is a byproduct, or in combination with, an eidetic memory, incredibly high IQ, asperger’s (although this one is a dicy area, as it can perpetuate harmful stereotypes) or savaunt syndrome. In other words, it’s a passive sort of genius that comes naturally to them because of something out of their control.

These types of geniuses have oodles of information stored in their brains, and love to share it. It’s just that… not everyone wants to hear it. They spontaneously blurt out facts, but it doesn’t seperate them from others. Unlike the majority of genius archetypes, the Accidental Pedant is still loveable, kind, thoroughly sincere and usually gets classified as a dork. In short: all round goodness stuffed full of knowledge.

Some things to avoid in this archetype are Autistic Spectrum Condition-coding (if your genius is on the autistic spectrum, then they’re on the autistic spectrum. Make it explicit and don’t try to use the fact to negate the value of their intelligence) and infantilization. Too often, the Accidental Pedant is shown to be like a big baby with adult intelligence. In the case of Spencer Reid, you can be mistaken to think that at first as the other members of his team call him “kid”; but as the seasons continue it becomes clear that he is a valued, equal member of the group respected for more than his eidetic memory.

The Trickster

I.e, the Loki (of Norse mythology)

As with Sherlock Holmes, I’m talking about the archetype seen in mythological figures, like Anansi or Loki, rather than modern popular media. (But I couldn’t resist the marvel Loki gif).

As with the Tortured Genius, the Trickster isn’t inherently evil but is still… questionable. They think first and foremost of themselves before others, and have no problem with causing chaos to meet their ends. Their genius is one of wit and wily charm, a smooth tongue and all the cunning of a high-flying conman. In other words, some might kill or endanger others for their own delight (I’m looking right at you, Loki) but others would steal, cheat and lie but never kill. And sometimes pay back those that they have robbed, in due course.

Usually a jack-of-all-trades, with

They walk the line between evil mastermind and trickster, but they have two defining traits that set them apart:

  • Often feel remorse and know the limits that they should stay within. Leaving these limits usually leads to their downfall. More often than not, they have no desire to exceed the limits.
  • Their motivations are skewed, but not truly evil, and usually small. They would endanger their family to get some satisfaction after a petty slight, but wouldn’t harm their family in order to take over the world or exceed their station (mythological Loki being the former and MCU the latter)

The Evil Mastermind

i.e, The Moriarty

Immoral, chaotic, cruel; this genius is one who channels all of their creative energy into wrongdoings. Unlike the Trickster, these wrongdoings are pure horrors; they are intended to cause harm and are based on larger ambitions than brief amusement or emotional satsfaction. They are usually intelligent in all forms, and deeply selfish (or they believe that they are helping their family or a loved one, but actually they’re just hurting a lot of people). The ends will always justify the means, and nothing else matters after that.

Some like to have people do their foul play for them, and others like to get their hands dirty themselves. This is the sort of genius who carries themselves with class, style and sophistication; they are fully aware of their own intelligence, but are usually careful to avoid a downwards spiral.

You may want to keep in mind that not every antagonist is an evil mastermind. Macbeth would probably more accurately be described as a tortured genius, as would Theon Greyjoy and Ryzek Noavek. Each of these genius archetypes can fall into the role of either antagonist or protagonist; say, an evil mastermind becomes a highly immoral protagonist for personal gain. It would be heckin awesome to see an Accidental Pedant as an antagonist, if the cards were played right.

unfocused-notwriter:

Me, thinking about my plot: I’m a literary genius

Me, trying to write: I’d sell my soul for a full sentence

captainsnoop:

thalassarche:

orson-bigdaddy-krennic:

shamblingshitpickle:

PSA: journalists aren’t supposed to put names in the headlines if the person isn’t a public figure. It’s not a matter of maliciously not giving credit

^^^as a journalist, this is something that bothers me ALL THE TIME

A friend of mine on Twitter explained this the other day, so to elaborate based on what she said: If the name is not instantly recognizable the way a public figure is, then putting the name in the headline isn’t going to bring about any sort of recognition or connection in the reader, and doesn’t do much to draw the reader into the story. But something like “local teen” does create a connection by tying the person into the community, and encourages the reader to learn more about what this local teen has done. The name will be in the article itself, after the headline has done its job at getting the reader to look into it.

It’s worth noting too that usually, according to the Inverted Pyramid writing style used for journalism where the most important information is shared first, the person’s name is usually in the first sentence of the first paragraph.

Whenever I see someone get up at arms over a headline that says “Local Teen” and the first comment is “SAY THEIR NAME” I’m always like “hey, thanks for telling every journalist present that you don’t read articles and just skim headlines.” Really makes us feel appreciated.

yourbitchystudentwriter:

nicholewrites:

Writing your own world’s mythology sounds hard until you realize most mythologies are created on the “oh, haven’t you heard?” principle

Some ancient Greek dude: hey why are you pregnant? You aren’t married

The lady about to come up with zeus: oh haven’t you heard?

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invisiblechange:

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling.”
           - Roald Dahl, Matilda

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writing-central:

Source: via Pinterest from inkandquills.com

January 27 2018

tehjai:

aliyamirat:

naamahdarling:

setheverman:

tooquirkytolose:

My 26 yr old sister still says things out loud like ‘ermagerd’ and ’___ ALL the things!’ Like…is that what’s gonna happen to me?am I going to be 30 still saying stupid shit like O shit waddup! Are all the youngins gonna be embarrassed by my use of outdated memes….how long until I myself am not Hip With It….how long until I am no longer a trendy memer…

my greatest fear honestly

Listen, I am 40.  I was around for the early internet of webrings and hamsterdance. Homestarrunner.  Those little cats in the boat singing to Immigrant Song.  Longcat.  Ceiling cat.  Radiskull.  Powerthirst.

So to me anything that is funny on the internet is, and always will be, cutting-edge and hilarious.  If it’s funny the first time, it’s funny the eleven thousandth time.  No exceptions.

I accumulate memes. Social media sites form actual strata in my soul, revealing my geological age in layers: Geocities, Myspace, Livejournal, Tumblr.  Memes encrust me, like jewels, just layer on layer of reaction gifs and shitposts, some of which I barely understand, but I refuse to let go of.  I cling to them, they are ever-relevant, undying.

You callow youths, who think in your innocence that that memes come and go, you are tepid fools who still smell of milk.

I am where memes go to die. I am where memes go to live eternal. Someday, if you are lucky, you will join me.  Bring your breadsticks meme, your Spiders Georg, your Bode, your big mood, your Supernatural gifs, your oh worm.  Come with me and rejoice in pointless in-jokes and long-forgotten references.  Embrace your encyclopedic knowledge of comedy sites ca 2006 and come share the knowledge with us. Come with me and lik the bred.  

You gotta.

“You callow youths, who think in your innocence that that memes come and go, you are tepid fools who still smell of milk.”

Put this on my headstone, underneath a picture of Ceiling Cat.

all your base are belong to us

ladyjericho:

animals sit in the woods and scream “I WANT TO FUCK!!!!!!” and thats just the culture

Legit Tip #193

legit-writing-tips:

or - “Writing Disability in Fantastic Worlds”

It goes without saying that diversity is crucial to the world of fiction today. That being said, it can also be difficult to know how to approach writing disability when you’re writing about characters who are traversing distant star systems or making their way across fantasy landscapes. 

Writing a cohesive story while still staying true to the struggles of people with disabilities and telling their stories can be a challenge. And I don’t claim to have all the answers. What I do know is that this is something I’ve thought about a lot, both as a writer and someone who struggles with disability myself. So here are some things to think about as you write your own fiction. 

The Debate: To Cure or Not to Cure?

If you live in a world with magic or advanced technology, it only stands to reason that there would be magical cures or technological cures for disabilities, right? Well… let’s address the issues with that.

1. Magic/Technology doesn’t solve everything. And thought it may feel a bit “nice” as a writer to offer people with disabilities a vision of a world where there are “cures” available…that doesn’t reflect their reality. Which brings us to point number 2.

2. You’re not really telling the stories of people with disabilities, which means you’re not offering real representation. Which is kind of the point of putting those people in your stories to begin with.

3. Not everybody wants a cure. See: Deaf Culture (among many other examples). Don’t belittle readers by having a deaf character suddenly be magically fixed by a wizard halfway through your story.

What Do You Call Disabilities?

This can be a particular problem if you’re writing a story that isn’t set in the present time, whether it’s on another world or the distant future where names for existing conditions may have changed. Knowledge of conditions change, and names for conditions change. 

Realistically speaking, as much as I want representation, it just doesn’t fit for a character in a high fantasy novel to say they have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. (Those diagnoses wouldn’t exist in a high fantasy world.) So what do you do?

Well, a lot of it depends on your worldbuilding. If it’s important to you to point out that these conditions exist, then you could have a more advanced fantasy civilization that has identified mental health concerns and given them their own names. They may not understand why these conditions exist or the science behind them, but readers in the know would be able to link the fantasy illness to the real world illness. 

Likewise if you were to write a futuristic story and simply tweak existing names of illnesses a bit (as names for illness change all the time in a clinical setting over time and it would be realistic to do so).

How do I Accommodate for Disabled Characters in Fantastic Settings?

One particular struggle a lot of writers may have is fitting disabled characters into fantasy or science fiction settings, or at least doing so without demeaning those characters. This is more so true for characters in fantasy settings, where the world may not be as accommodating for a disabled person (especially, for example, if they are mobility impaired).

Honestly, it’s at this point where I suggest you just get creative with the world that you’ve built. Writing steampunk? How about a ship’s captain with a badass leg made up of cogs and gears? Writing a story about the fae? How about a schizophrenic girl who befriends a fairy who helps her tell the difference between what’s real and not real after she makes a deal with her? And don’t even get me started on the wealth of opportunities that science fiction affords. Just a peek at news articles on current medical breakthroughs should give you inspiration for days.

All that being said, there’s no reason not to include disabled characters in your science fiction and fantasy. I hope this inspires more of you to include more of them! 

No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists will make them.
— Elie Wiesel

skarchomp:

In 2018 can yall just like or dislike movies/shows/books/etc like normal human beings and not make it a Thing for once

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Reblog this if you're a Tumblr for writers.

writersrelief:

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