bit of advice on character building that I would like to share with
you today.First off, creating a character bio has turned out to be a huge help
for me. I thought I knew my characters. I had been around them for
over a decade, I know them so well. And yet, when I started on their
bios, I actually learned even more about them!
It’s all very exciting.
So I wanted to share the three dimensions in creating your character
bio thanks to Mr. Frey:
Age, weight, shape, appearance, whatever. Even if it may not be
useful in the story, put it in there. Because society shapes a
person’s personality based on their appearance. Here are some
examples that he uses:
“Where would Jim Thorpe have been, for example, had he been born with
a club foot? or Marilyn Monroe, had she turned out flatchested? Or
Hank Aaron, had he had a withered arm? Or Barbra Streisand, a small
voice? Obviously, not only would their choices of profession have been
affected, but their personalities would have been shaped differently
as well. A small man cannot “throw his weight around” as a large man
can. Pretty or ugly, short or tall, thin or fat—all of these physical
traits affect the way a character would have developed, just as such
physical traits affect real people.”
up in. Where did they go to school? What were their parents like?
What were their parents views on politics, sex, or money? Did they
even have parents? If not, where did they grow up and what was the
overall atmosphere in that place? This also helps shape your
character in the same way that it helps shape a real human being.
two. As a result of their appearance and societal upbringing: what
makes them tick? What are their fears? Desires? Fantasies? Phobias?
IQ? Special Talents or Soundness of Reasoning?
journal in the voice of your character. This is said to be helpful in
creating a villain. This will help you find their voice and they even
reveal some odd skeletons from their closet that you didn’t think
surrounded by these characters for well over ten years. They are
still surprising me today.
I wrote one character with the intent of making a love triangle for my
characters Rei and Bronx. It really wasn’t much of one since Rei
wasn’t interested in Maitrun in the slightest. I thought I could try
my hand at it but nope. Big fat no. Honestly, I will be putting
those two through enought so adding a third person to the relationship
felt like overkill.
But then what would I do with Maitrun? I couldn’t get rid of him
completely because he actually plays a role in some of the story
linens, but I couldn’t figure out what more to do with him after the
first book. Maitrun is not important enough to be a main character,
but he has a role to play. I guess, in a way, he was just not a
character that I was that invested in.
What was he like? Well, I tried to make him like Rayne Summers from
the online comic ‘Least I Could Do.’ I like that kind of crass humor
and even though he is a womanizer there is something about him that I
find loveable. Unfortunately only Rayne can be Rayne. I can’t
recreate that in a way that would work in my story…in fact I can’t
recreate Rayne at all. It turned out pretty bad. Then I thought back
to a similar character – Nichols from ‘Orange is the New Black.’
She has a similar sense of humor and sometimes can be a little
offputting but she really cares about those close to her and always
makes the effort to show it. Another similar character is Captain
Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood. See the pattern? Granted
Nicky is a lesbian and Harkness is an omnisexual (he’ll have sex with
anything) I loved how they stuck out in this world of straight heroes
and heroines. Your sexual orientation is not a prerequisite for
heroics and overall badassery. I know that they are both major flirts
but that’s because they just love to love.
Then I also remembered this movement that has been gaining momentum
over the last several months: #weneeddiversebooks. I have always
agreed with this statement long before the movement emerged. In Book
of Tas’und’eash I made one of my heroes a Nigerian named Latif
because I didn’t want my heroes to be so white washed. It’s not like
I meant for that to happen. In fact, I don’t think most authors do
that. But once I became aware, I decided to put changes where I
So I came to the decision that Maitrun would now be a lesbian.
However, what would I call her? I had been wanting to come up with a
cool badass chick called Bernadette only because I love nickname
Bernie for a girl. Et voila! Bernie!
Suddenly this character had new life for me and I could come up with
more things for her. I am very excited. On the whole, integrating
Bernie more into the story will really be the only major change that I
have to tackle in Volocio. But the payoff will be totally worth it.
What about you writers out there? Have you tried to write a character
that’s outside the normal?
Until next time,
Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in
the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the
second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going
to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.
This is important for any storyteller in any medium. Only write what
has relevance and make sure you fulfill your promises to your
I never watched Lost but from what I heard the audience was left with
a lot of unanswered questions and that left the viewers disappointed
by the time the final episode aired. They have since learned their
lesson as they write Once Upon a Time, but this is something you
don’t want to do with their audience.
Another example: in Volocio I wrote how one character bought a
necklace with the intent of having it show up later. Upon rereading
it, I found that I never did anything with it like I had planned. So
now I have to make a decision, do I go back an incorporate it like I
had planned or do I get rid of it all together? I decided to keep it
and use it as a small detail that will help with a bigger plot line
later. I looked at my notes and found it entirely possible so that’s
what I will do.
You don’t have to sit down and carefully outline every little detail
before you start writing. This goes back to my ‘Revision’ post; write
every thing – get it out there. Then go back and fine tune your
details. But don’t worry, if you miss those details or forgot about
them then chances are your Beta readers will see them and point them
out to you. Don’t fret.
But remember, dear readers, don’t go too crazy and write yourself so
many elements that you can’t keep track. Remember the advice I got
from a publishing house: You have great ideas just too many.
Have plot twists but also try to keep it simple.
Until next time,
I can’t tell you how many times I have started and reworked Volocio.
Actually I can and I will: I finished my first draft (at the time it
was called So It Begins) when I was about fifteen. It was one whole
book and at the time it was a huge accomplishment. Then I started my
freshman year of high school and I remember sitting in English class
when it dawned on me….it had to be a trilogy. So I took the story
and broke it into three separate pieces and then I totally revamped
I finished that draft a few years latera and had a friend of my mom
look at it. Naomi was my first real editor and she was great. She
was very positive and constructive. I also really needed help with my
grammar (which is still not perfect, by the way – speaking three
languages tends to mess you up from time to time). I was very lucky
to have her.
By the time I was eighteen and a senior in high school, I decided to
try my hand at sending my manuscripts to publishers. I believe I sent
out 26 packages (yes packages….this was before you sent queries by
e-mail). While I waited it dawned on me that this was still not the
story I wanted to tell, but it was too late.
But then I was rejected by all. I did get one piece of advice that I
still cherish greatly: You have a lot of great ideas, but too many.
Yes….just a big yes!
So now we are entering my freshman year of college where I gutted
Volocio and made a third a final draft that I am still happy with to
this very day. Once I finally finished, I put it away for a few years
and worked on some other projects in the same world. But every time I
come back, I am still ok with the story.
Now I need to finally get off my ass and get Beta Readers.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is to just write because you
will make revisions after revisions but the point is to get it out
there in the first place.
Until Next Time,
It is understood in the industry that you will need to know the answer
to this questions: who is your target audience? Even if you don’t
have a specific audience in mind, think about why you wrote your
If you wre writing a self help guide for teenagers and your
inspiration was your young niece about to enter that period of her
life then say that. Every writer writes for some reason even if it’s
just for themselves.
Emily Dickenson only wrote for herself. Her poems never saw the light
of day until AFTER she passed away. Stephani Meyer, author of
Twilight, said, “What’s funny about that is when I was writing Twilight just for
myself and not thinking of it as a book, I was not thinking about
publishing…” She had a dream of a girl talking to a beautiful man
in a forest. When she woke up, she couldn’t get the image out of her
head and also wanted to find out more so she started to write.
But when it comes to the wire, you shouldn’t say that you were writing
it for yourself. It doesn’t help publishing houses know where to
market your work.
If you do find that this is your answer the ask yourself why someone
like you would read your work? I will use myself as an example:
When I first started Volocio, I was very heavy into reading Young
Adult. The stories drew me in more. I did venture into more adult
fantasy but I found their info dumps to be a little too much for me at
times. In my experience the adults fantasy worlds tend to be a little
more complex. Don’t get me wrong, they are complicated because the
writers create such real and vivid worlds with its own vast history
and culture and prophecy. It is wonderful what these writers can come
up with but sometimes the back story is a little too much more me.
Other times I loves it. Depends on my mood. Even today I am still
more drawn to books that sit in the Young Adult section.
So I guess my work will be geared as YA.
So there you have it. One of your first homework assignments as you
write your work. Even if you are writing forself, remember that there
are others like you with your similar tastes. Figure out what that
means to you.
Until Next Time,
I started writing Volocio when I was about thirteen. When I started
to write it, I was literally just writing down my daydreams, the
adventures I wanted to have. My two obsessions at such a young age
were Star Wars and Sailor Moon.
What I loved about Sailor Moon was the power over the elements,
reincarnation, fighting evil by the moonlight, winning love by
daylight, and finding your true love against insurmountable odds. Of
course my favorite Sailor Scout is still Sailor Jupiter (this is why
my main character Rei can wield lightning) It’s also interesting that
Sailor Moon has been re-released in a new version. I am twenty-eight
now but I feel like I am thirteen again.
On the other hand, what I loved about Stars Wars I later learned came
from Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Face.’ I mean the
architypes you find in most classic epics. There’s the hero’s
journey. You can take a look at this awesome chart I found.
You can compare this with a lot of epics. You will find that, for the
most part, they fit. Try is now with ‘The Matrix,’ ‘The Hobbit,’
‘Divergent,’ ‘Narniva,’ and ‘Song of the Lioness.’ They work because
the writer intentionally or unintentionally drew from the architypes
to give you the story you are familiar with.
If you are not familiar with Joseph Campbell then I highly recomment
that you either pick up ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ or (if you can
find it) the PBS interview with Joseph Campbell called ‘The Power of Myth.’
Very cool stuff! You will learn a lot.
Until Next Time,
So how are things with Book of Tas’und’eash? When I had my writing
group in Chicago, it was going well. Unfortunately since the move, I
have started to lose momentum. I haven’t been editing my book the way
I should and the writing group truly works best when you are there
physically for dialogue. t least with the last group I wasin. I will
keep tryin to post with them. I really should, even if only one
person reads it.
I have gotten good feedback with it so I know people will want to know
what happens next. I owe it to them to keep working.
The truth is, I found myself re-reading my first novel Volocio and I
think with a little more work this one will be ready soon to try and
find an agent. I think because it is so cose to being done that i
really want to focus my energy on it. So now I will go back in time
and start talking about Volocio and my process.