A Tale of Editing and Insanity

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Day 1: I have killed off a character. Well, not killed so much as erased all traces of his existence. Sorry, Quade. You didn’t fit into the story like I originally thought you would. On the bright side, I can use his name in another story now. (I get irrationally attached to the names I give my characters. Not the characters themselves, just the names.)

I managed to get the prologue and chapter one edited. There is a scene that needs to be written that I’ve decided to add. To make up for getting rid of the one character, I’m giving another character his own voice. He’s a criminal, so his POV should be interesting.

Unfortunately, I realized that my fun-loving and carefree character is a bit more timid than I thought. Poo. Get your shit together, Wild. YOUR NAME IS WILD FOR FUCK’S SAKE. COME ON.

Progress: 10% done. I’m already falling behind!

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Day 2: Shit. Is this really my novel? Err… not too sure of this anymore. Maybe I’ll become a rapper or something. Writing doesn’t seem to be my thing.

I’ve added more scenes to be written by my new character’s POV. He was a total asshole in the first draft, ready to abandon Wild without any qualms, but now he’s being forced to leave her and he feels kinda bad.

The good news it that I’ve already made Daivat more surly, though he’s less likable now. His fascination with throwing knives also seems a little unhealthy at this point, but that’s for the best. Also I got into a fight on Facebook (well, I was yelled at) because Daivat is apparently a pedophile for finding Wild attractive before he knew her age.

Catcaller: Yo baby let me see some ID.
Female Passerby: *hands over driver’s license, birth certificate, and proof of insurance*
Catcaller: Oh yeah baby, 18, damn you fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

(That is an OFFICIAL excerpt from Wildflower Crown.)

Also, I’ve somehow increased the word count? This is good, but I’m not sure how this is happening. Chapter two is edited, as is chapter three, and some of chapter three has been extended to start chapter four.

Progress: 29% done. Back on track!

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Day 3: I have Senioritis. Does that happen in college? I think it does. Why go to class when I could be editing?

Anyways, I switched one of the scenes to the queen’s POV because she kind of comes off like … a nice Umbridge. So her thoughts help show who she really is despite her outwards appearance. Plus, this will make it less weird when I have the next POV of hers since that was the only one in the book.

Problem: I have no idea how old my character is. You see, in Kiss of The Fey I established Cadmus being around Xenos’s age, who was 30, and now in Wildflower Crown Cadmus is just a boy. I want to make him 13, but I also want him to have left right after Johara was born, and I don’t know how old she is. It’s between 19-25, but that’s a big window. I don’t think this is something readers would ever notice, especially when Cadmus’s age isn’t given a number in Kiss of The Fey, but it still bothers me. Bah humbug.

I’ve made it to the start of chapter six this time. Woo!

Progress: 47% done. Almost halfway!

hurdle

Day 4: I’m cutting even more stuff out. I had to give Daivat’s ex-lover a name so I asked my Facebook friend (who has trouble with the ladies) for a heart-breaker name and he said Sarah. Well. Alright. Sarah it is. Boring, but whatever. I think I only mention her like twice.

I got through chapter six and part of seven. I got distracted and ended up stopping in the middle of a scene, and it happens to be the first sex scene. But at least I got through all the horse nonsense (which has nothing to do with the sex scenes, to clarify) that was a jumbled mess before.

Progress: 63% done.

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Day 5: Oh, right, picking right back up in the middle of a sex scene. Not only am I not happy with how late into the book it takes place (I don’t know of a natural way to push it forward, either) but I put a line break, meaning that I was planning to add something, but now I can’t remember what. So whatever brilliant line was there earlier is gone now.

I just…. I just found an error. Like, a big deal. I called my character by a different character’s name. It was the main character. Her name is Wild. I called her Wren. That is the main character of Only in Whispers. And… I almost missed it at first. A+ to me. Good job.

He was wearing one of his mother’s older dresses.

One letter makes a big difference, guys. Don’t forget that.

I just realized how often my characters blush. I think that’s a thing that gets annoying to readers. Like I don’t know, I just think that’s a thing. I’ll have to cut out all of Wild’s blushes during the next edit, but I’m keeping all of Daivat’s. Also, I’m watching Final Destination 3 while trying to edit, so everything in the novel seems creepier than it is.

Progress: 75% done.

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Day 6: Okay, I admit that this gif has no relation at all to my writing, I just wanted it in there.

I added an entire chapter of scenes to write. Haven’t written them yet, of course, but it should help with how rushed the first draft was. I have a scene where Rosabel must bathe in the blood of the innocents skin a rabbit cause fuck you, honey, you need to learn about the real world, and then another sexy scene between Daivat and Wild. Can’t have enough of those, can you?

I’ve managed to extend things enough that parts of chapter nine are now in chapter eleven. Wooo! I know you’re supposed to take away during editing, but I rushed to finish the first draft with a lot of bullshit that I know I’m going to delete, so I need to extend the rest of it.

Progress: 93% done. So close!

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Day 7: You know, I’m quite proud of myself for the scene where Rosabel breaks into the castle. It won’t be perfect until I go through it with a few more rounds of editing, but it still makes me happy to see that everything I wrote isn’t complete shit.

For the rest of this, though… the gif above about covers it. I had a whole ridiculous fairy gathering with like naked fairies living in trees and that is ALL being cut out. All of it. I don’t need such a silly plot to get this story finished. I don’t know what I need to finish it, but it’s not that. I think instead I’ll add a scene with Cadmus’s POV of meeting the girl he has to marry for the second time and having her be way less charitable than Wild.

Progress: 100% done!

giphy (1)So… what did y’all get done this week?

Your Characters Should Hold a Grudge

Your characters should be holding a grudge, possibly several of them. Not against you, of course, unless you’re George R. R. Martin, but against other characters. People that they could reasonably hold a grudge against.

I was thinking about how I owe some guy at my school named Nate a big FUCK YOU for something he did earlier last semester (deets here towards the top) and I realized that I am definitely the kind of person who holds grudges. However, my characters aren’t. They don’t remember that one time that girl got them detention in 4th grade for something they didn’t do or the time their “best friend” decided to ignore them for two year to join the popular kids. Now, just like not all people hold grudges, not all characters do. Some forgive and forget.

However, I think it’s much more fun not to have a character forgive and forget. It can give them motivation to do anything, really. Need your character to get to the next city over for the plot to progress? She has a grudge on an old bully and wants to go make him wash her car. Need your character to be caught by the hunky police officer she’s going to sleep with? Have her being caught egging the house of her ex. You know the one, the guy who stole her cat and cheated on her, not the nice one who wore sweaters. Sweater dude made nice pizza.

Grudges are a great way to add some depth to your character. Is Judy more relaxed but Sally is confrontational? Show that through a conversation about how Sally hasn’t forgiven her first grade teacher for playing favorites and Judy trying to talk her into forgetting about it. It can also add humor to a scene when Sally recounts how incredibly unfair it was that Timmy was given FOUR gummy bears but she was only give ONE. (And yes, these can be adults. Adults can be petty, and all characters need flaws.)

So, Nate, in honor of upcoming Valentine’s Day, here is my gift for you:

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So now I don’t have to worry about flipping you off it I finally see you around campus, because all of my followers now know that I’m crazy.

What’s something one of your characters has held a grudge for?

Where are your stories set?

This might seem a little redundant to say, but when I write high fantasy, I’m writing about a fictional place. However, I didn’t just make it up out of nowhere. I roughly based the continent in Kiss of The Fey on America’s geography. I imagine the north being Canada, the south being Florida, and I base the weather and the seasons accordingly based on where the story fell between those. It’s a lot easier that way, rather than making up all the geographical features, the weather, the seasons, and distances from one city to another.

When writing anything else, I tend to write a pretend, vague version of a real location. I live north of Pittsburgh, so I tend to write stories based in Pennsylvania. I don’t flat out say the town that it takes place in, but I describe it as a rural area north of Pittsburgh and make up schools and mom and pop-type hangout spots. I don’t see the point of setting a book in a location you know nothing about just to make it seem shiny unless it’s relevant to the plot.

Where do you write your books? I’m interested in knowing how you do about creating the setting to your story?

Why I Enjoy Writing Diverse Characters

It’s too often that I find a historical romance novel I enjoy and when I check out the author’s other work, the characters are all the same. The heroine is a beautiful, graceful woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful, who is caring and kind but “strong” (I say it in quotes because for a woman to be strong she just needs to be more masculine) and smart. The hero is a big muscled hunk who is clever and honorable. Sure, there will be a few minor differences, like the heroine will have a “temper” or the hero’s lust may overcome his honor when he seduces the heroine against her father’s wishes, but mostly, they’re the same.

I understand that you want to write what your readers want to read. If they liked book one, why not make your second book follow the same formula?

Only… that’d be shit to write. Your characters would be the same. They’d never surprise you, never do anything other than what was planned in your outline. I know that some people argue against this type of creativity, saying that writers are crazy if they think that the characters control the story, but those people take the saying too literally. Once you start writing a character, you get a feel for behaviors. A scene you once thought would be serious turns funny when you realize that your character would crack a joke to ease the tension. You may have thought that your character was too strong to weep for her dying dog, but then you realize how much affection she showed the dog, and that she was be depressed for weeks about it.

I plan characters by thinking of how I could make them different from my current characters. My only published book, Kiss of The Fey, features the outspoken clever Johara and the introverted Xenos. I decided that my next book would feature Wren, who is strong-willed yet silent and Ferran, who is very gentle. Next I thought that I would create Wild, who enjoys things like a child and is very naive, and Daivat who holds honor above all else and is very serious. Another book I have planned is between Orion and Kasmira, both of whom were featured in Kiss of The Fey. One is an alcoholic and the other hates everyone and has a terrible temper.

The important thing to remember when creating a character is that they can’t always have attractive flaws. I have yet another book planned in which the main character will be a quiet, caring girl who isn’t afraid to cry, and her love interest is going to be an impatient asshole who thinks all women are weak.

I enjoy lining my characters up next to each other and seeing how they compare. When they come too close (Johara and Wren became too similar, so I started cutting Wren’s dialogue until she was a much quieter person) I change things, and I even try to make their physical characteristics different. Ferran has very dark skin, Johara is tan, Wren is tall and extremely skinny, Orion is a skinny ginger (who isn’t strong at all), my unnamed man will actually be shorter than the unnamed woman… you get the picture.

I know we all love our characters, so it’s important that you love them for their differences, not because they all have big hearts or kind souls. Quite frankly, Kasmira is a bitch, but it’s my job as a writer to show how her and Orion came together, and to make you like her despite her flaws.

On a more unrelated topic, I’ve found a really awesome character creator here. It’s a little confusing at first, but I’ve managed to start making characters and now I’m only stopping because I need to make food. The only real limitation is that if you want to change body types it’s a pain in the butt, so I didn’t bother. Here are some examples:

johara

Johara

Xenos

Xenos

Kyald

Unnamed Male

Elianna

Unnamed Female

I’m sorry if this post seemed scattered, but break is finally over and I’m still trying to get back into the grove of things, including finishing everything I said I’d do over break and getting back to blogging for realz (and not just posting book reviews, because that’s really all I’ve done over break).

 

Who is the character you sympathize most with?

I always try to make characters you can sympathize with. Since I’ve started reading The Host I can see how wrong it can go when you fail to make a sympathetic character. Stephanie Meyer wrote the main character to be a parasite that took over a human body. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her because she feels she doesn’t belong and all the humans want to kill her. The problem is, she is constantly complaining and crying and she won’t stand up for herself. She’s a really terrible character overall, but you can’t sympathize for someone you find annoying who won’t do anything to help her situation.

There are two characters I’ve always sympathized with. The first one every knows; Professor Snape.

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Professor Snape was an asshole to Harry, yes. However, we learned that there was a reason that he was so mean. Harry’s father bullied him, all the Gryffindors bullied him. He grew up in a shitty neighborhood with shitty parents. His entire life sucked, and the only people who were ever kind to him were the evil people. Then he lost the woman he loved most in the world. He spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it, then was killed ultimately for a mistake he made as a teenager.

The second one might not be as well known. It’s the cop from Bridesmaids.

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I sympathize with him because he’s just such a nice guy. He is like the nicest guy ever, and he’s cute and charming and adorable. If you haven’t seen the movie, Annie used to have a bakery but it failed so she stopped baking. The cop (yeah, I forget his name) and Annie spend the night at the cop’s place and she wakes up and finds that he went out and bought baking supplies to try to get her back into baking. We then have to watch him get all sad and stuff because Annie gets confused and turns him down and is basically a bitch. (Don’t worry, they end up together, I’m pretty sure… I forget).

So which characters do you really sympathize with? Do you ever examine what makes you sympathize them to apply it to your own characters?

Writing a Solid Character

If you know nothing about your character, the first thing to do is to fill out a character quiz. My characters were all kind of hazy individuals with only a few distinct personality traits. They had vague backstories and unclear motivations. Not only were my characters lacking, but my plot was as well. I just wasn’t sure where it was going, and how could I when so many of the characters were only partially formed in my mind? If I didn’t know the personality of the antagonist, just his motives, then how was I to know how he would inflict pain on my protagonist? If I didn’t know about how my protagonist was affected by things, how would I know how the antagonist could hurt her?

Not only this, but I dread writing a Mary Sue. Or a Gary Stu. I have taken this test many times for many characters. Some passed, some didn’t. Some fell on the middle line. As you write more and take the test more you realize that some things are just not okay to do, like being Stephanie Myers and writing a character like Bella. I just took the test for a character of mine and got a -3. I think that’s also not good, but a bad score on the test doesn’t mean I need to scrap the character. A very low score means that I have to make sure my character remains interesting enough for readers to want to read about her while a very high score would mean that I needed to think about making her more of an individual and less of a special snowflake. I suggest everyone take this test at least once to make sure you know what to look out for. After that you just need to ask yourself if your character has personality traits you can list and if they have a specific flaw. If so, write on.

Speaking of flaws, it’s important that your character have a flaw. A world of perfect characters means a world where nothing goes wrong. There is no plot, no problems to be solved. Even if all but one character has a flaw, that single perfect character isn’t okay unless his/her perfectness actually causes them non-Mary-Sue-like problems.

Characters are made-up people in a made up world. That’s the gist of it. To make a believable character you have to think if they would be a believable person. Have you ever known anyone that didn’t annoy ANYONE they met, even the most irritable? Have you never met a person who hated someone for basically no reason? Have you ever met someone who you found completely perfect and couldn’t find a single flaw in? If you just said yes, you need to take a step back from writing and examine your personal life. I love my boyfriend with all my heart and I think he’s absolutely perfect for me, but I still recognize that he’s terribly introverted, procrastinates too much, and is kinda lazy and incredibly unmotivated when it comes to certain things. However, I can love him and still recognize that he’s not perfect. Love should not blind you, and that includes love for your character. You created them from nothing and have been with them through everything, but you have to remember that they’re not real. They’re just a tool in your writing. If realizing that your perfect character is kind of an asshole betters your writing, it’s the best step.

That being said, Camp Nanowrimo starts tomorrow. I might do more character quizzes since the one for my main character helped so much with the plot. Here’s my favorite question/answer from the quiz.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: Wren wanted to breed livestock and sell them at market.

It might not seem like much, but I made it up on the spot and now that’s another aspect to my character that exists. Little things like that add up and can go a long way.