Saturday, November 30, 2013

How to Write A Good Character Interview




Hey, guys! Today I'm talking about how to write character interviews and the benefits of them. :) Whether you have a blog of your own or if you just want to do them privately, character interviews are a great writing tool. Though this is mostly geared for blog post ready interviews the basic principle can apply to a private one too.

So what's a character interview?

It's an interview with one of your characters. You get into the skin of your character and answer questions by you or a friend as your character. Doing this can help you can into the head of not just your main character but your secondary characters or even villains that you don't get to go into the point of view of in your story.

I like to think of my interviews like cast interviews of movie actors on talk shows and such. Sort of like Katniss and Peeta with Caesar Flickerman. ;) In the interview you want your readers to get a basic idea of your character without giving away any big spoilers in the story. Their personality and such. The better you know your character the easier they are to write especially if he/she is one of your main characters, but this also assists with side characters that don’t have point of view roles in your novel. There are several ways to acquire questions.

1.) Yourself – You can either think up questions or use some of the loads of character development charts you can find on the internet.

2.)  Friend – Getting a friend to ask the questions in better than yourself usually because they usually think of questions you wouldn’t. That makes you think a little bit more and tap into parts of your character that your own questions wouldn’t.


3.) Multiple People – Asking multiple people is the best because you get a wide variety of questions. Ask your group of writing buddies, friends and family or do what I do—post a character interview prompt on your blog.



Character interviews help your blog because your readers get to have a taste of your characters, and you get good amount of reader interaction. I’ve been doing character interviews for a while now, and I’ve always gotten great response and lots of views especially with my enhanced method. 

These are the steps I take:

1.) Bio  I prepare a bio of the character. I keep it to only two paragraphs in length. I include six things in it: the character’s age and position in the book (main character, side character, villain, ect.), his/her’s goal, he/she’s personality, he/she’s setting and a few unusual facts about him/her. This way the readers get a good idea of who they are. Most of the time I include a picture of a celebrity look alike or a photo I found on Pinterest to go along with it so the readers know how I imagine they look like.

Example Bio:
Mor from Red Hood
Mor is a seventeen-year old aspiring red hood or werewolf huntress.  She lives at the red hood manor positioned near silver mines on the west side of the Queendom of Silfurlund. Half-mechanical werewolves have plagued her country for three hundred years and only women with the hereditary Spirit of Silver can keep these enemies at bay. When she was very young, her father went missing in the war which has given her extra drive toward the defeat of the beasts. Both Mor's mother and granny have been legendary huntresses, saving hundreds of lives and becoming great legends. It is Mor's dream to continue this legacy.

As is tradition, she owns a wolfhound to assist her in her missions to protect the nearby villagers. He is her constant companion and named Sielgair. Claes and Dina, a silver miner's son and a fellow red hood to-be, are her two best friends and perfect opposites to her plucky personality. Though at times Mor can be hot-headed, her bravery and tactical abilities are unquestioned by her fellow red hoods in training. Her skills with double silver axes and black powder pistols have put her at the top of her class. At eighteen Mor will be able to graduate and become a full-fledged Red Hood. That day couldn't come soon enough.
2.) Post Early – I post my bio, prompting the readers to ask questions, about a week or two in advance. This gives the readers plenty of time to ask questions. Don’t forget to thank all the commenters!

3. Format the Post – I like to collect the questions as they come and then format the post the day before posting. This way I have all the questions together and can arrange them in a good order. If I get doubles of a question I just pick the first person’s question or if that’s another person’s only question, I pick that one. I like to format the post in a clear way with lots of white space. Another thing that’s fun to do is to have me and the character do actions within the interview like smiling, shifting, etcetera to make it feel more real. I put all actions between asterisks.  


Here’s an excerpt from the interview with my fantasy character Mor for an example of formatting:


Me:
*nods* Question two: What's your favorite dish?

Mor:
I like roast goose and mince pies, but I can't get enough of tarts. Black currant, raspberry ... Any tart I will eat it.

Me:
I like them too. And Jedi Kyra's last question: And one more; what are you most looking forward to about becoming a Red Hood?

Mor:
It's a tie between the travel and no more lessons to be frank. *laughs a little*


A few extra tips -

Be sure to answer all of the readers’ questions – Unless it’s a big spoiler answer all their questions. The reader took the time to comment so make sure to include them. 

Answer like your character would– Make sure to answer the questions in your character’s voice. This helps you get the hang of their voice. Even if you disagree with the character’s answer it’s the character answering the questions.

Thank the Commenters – Thank the people who left the questions within the post. They took the time think up questions for you. Acknowledge their effort.

Character interviews are also engaging for the readers if you ask them to ask the characters questions. You can do follow-up interviews later and include those questions and some of them can make you think out of the box.

You can also interview someone else's characters for your blog. It's fun being on the other side and plus you can help a friend out. :) If you don't have a blog, then you can do this on your own and still benefit. The point is to help you get to know your characters.

If you really like acting as your character, there's this thing called Character Chatting. It has immensely helped me with getting deep into my characters.

And there you have it! That’s how to do a character interview. I hope it helps your writing. ^ ^

Have you done a character interview before? Has it helped with your writing? Do you have any questions about character interviewing?

Update: I've improved my method of character interviewing. There are a few updates to this post and I've combined some content from the guest post I wrote on Meek Geek.

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Character Chatting
Interview with Able
Five Tips on Writing a Good Main Character
Interview with Emil
Interview with Sybra


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Write What You Know ... And What You Don't Know




I've read many blog posts that have advised to "write with you know." This good advice in one aspect. Writing from experience gives you a special connection with the subjects you write about. I even wrote a post sort of on the topic on turning experiences good or bad into research for writing called From Lemons to Book Experiences. Writing characters that are similar to you can give you an intimate perspective with that character. Writing in a setting you're familiar with can help you describe it in vivid detail.

That's all well and good, but I think it's also important for a writer to write out of their regular knowledge and comfort zone.

Because if you don't stray out of your norm your books all start sounding the same.

So be bold and be brave. Write an experience you have no idea how it feels like. Write a character that's the complete opposite of you. Write in a location you've never been in. It grows you as a writer.

One of the young writers I've critiqued said, "I'm not very good at imagining myself in those kinds of situations." Part of being a writing is using that imagination that never left you from childhood. As a kid, I played so many pretend games in all kinds of imaginary settings. I would even come up with story lines for them and for my Fashion Pollies and Barbies. So lets harness some of that pulling-out-of-nothing imagination we had as kids.

1.) Research - This is a big way to tap into settings, situations and such to get a good idea of it before writing. Use Google (with caution), your local library or even ask people you know. If you need to research police protocol and you know a policeman, awesome, you've got some great hands on research. :) You can look up pictures of settings and characters and keep them in a file on your computer or on Pinterest.


2.) Facts from School - Also if you're in school and you learn something cool, write it down! One thing that made school more for me was doing that. :) I took Anatomy and Physiology in my senior year, and I took so many notes for my sci-fi series, Subsapien. It made the subject way more fun. To create varied characters, study people and characters in other books. Everyone is different so try to pick out the differences and make sure each of your characters are unique. :)

3.) Picturing Yourself - Sometimes there are situations where you have trouble emotionally connecting with the character or ones that hopefully no one has been in. One way of using it is to connect a situation to something in your life. Like (hopefully) we've never had a bad guy kidnap your sibling, but how do we get the drama into that situation? Try relating that sibling to one of yours or a little kid that you like. If you write in emotion, the readers will feel it.

Write what you know, but don't forget to branch out and write what you don't. Try new things and let your characters grow. :)

Do you have any questions about writing what you don't know? Have you ever researched something for your book you knew nothing about?

You may also like:
From Lemons to Book Experiences
Tone Down But Don't Water Down
Five Tips on Writing a Good Main Character
How To Write A 3D Villain Part 1
How To Write A 3D Villain Part 2

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall Update 2013!



Lord of the Rings Mirkwood Elf Costume
Check out more pictures on my Facebookpage! :)
Hey, everybody! :) I decided to do another journal post. I figure it'd be best to keep you all updated on the progress of my books, to share some insight into my journey as a writer and to get some feedback from you all. I'm going to strive to do these quarterly. Maybe more often depending on events.

Update on Writing: Well, this fall has been a doozy. I've finished my rewrite/macro edit of Subsapien Biomech (my YA Sci-Fi) and now I'm on to editing. Editing is very time consuming lol. Then it's off to the beta readers. I'm not taking any more this time, but I'm excited to get feedback from the ones I have. :)

If you're on the beta list (you know who you are ;) ), if you can email me with your address so I have it to send the manuscript, please do so to HowellVictoriaGrace@gmail.com.

Update on Nerdiness: Writing aside, this fall has had some nerdiness thrown in. I attended DragonCon! And it was an amazing experience! I dressed up as a Lord of the Rings Mirkwood elf and had an absolute blast. I love being a nerd!  ^ ^ I also got to meet Graham McTavish aka Dwalin from The Hobbit! I totally fangirled. XD

I also have been watching a lot of anime lately, one of which is Sword Art Online which is now one of my favorite animes ever. So much anime also inspired one of my popular posts What Anime Can Teach Us About Writing. If you like anime or think you may like anime check it out. :)

What I've Learned in My Writer Journey: Several things have stood out.
DWALIN'S AUTOGRAPH!
up post on it, please leave a comment. ^ ^

1.) Editing takes a long time. Note to self: allot more time to do it. I'm trying to get it done in a month. Two would be wiser next time.

2.) I believe critiquing is an essential for being a good writer. Not just being critiqued but critiquing others. Critiquing others is like sharpening your eyes for editing your own work.

I've been critiquing a lot of other people in the past few months and it has definitely payed off and resulted in one of my popular posts Twelve Rookie Writer Mistakes and How to Mend Them. If you're a budding writer, this is a good post for you. :)

3.) Writing really has a bunch to do about your readers and I know some of you may be like, "Well, duh." But I feel like in the recent months, I'm getting that love of readership I kept hearing legend of when starting a blog. I enjoy hearing from all of you. ^ ^

I love all your comments and likes and views and emails. It's so encouraging, and I hope you write you all a great book to reward you for your support. I'm working hard on it. :) I've been going through a rough time personally, and all of your support has really lifted my spirits and blessed me. :) I have a three people I especially want to thank and I think all of them deserve some public showing of gratitude.

Thank you so much, Author Mr. Bryan Davis! ^ ^ For helping promote me and critiquing my work even when it's late at night. ;) And for being an all around inspiration to write and keep writing. :)

Thank you so much, Ruth Blomgren! :D For your awesome art work and your encouraging comments on my Facebook page. ^ ^  Here is an example of some of her stellar artwork. She's done so many now I haven't had time to post them all on my Facebook page. If you want to see more, check out the Fan Art Album!

Ruth Blomgren Fan Art of Matt & Ingrid (Subsapien)

Thank you so much, Cassidy Clayton! :) You've been so supportive and such an awesome friend. ^ ^ And you're the bomb for cosplaying as my characters with your boyfriend! :D I revealed these on my Facebook page, but I'm show to of them to you blog people now. ^ ^ More in the my Fan Art Gallery.

Ty Holm as Bryce from Subsapien

Cassidy Clayton as Pro Jamerson from Subsapien

You guys are awesome. ^ ^

What do you think of the blog? Would you like to see more character interviews, book reviews, journal posts or writing tips? How was your Summer? How's your Fall?

You May Also Like: 
Summer Update!
I'm now twenty and other updates!
Conference!
Hot n' Cold
Summer Summary 2012!

If you liked this post, come back every Saturday for more writing advice, character interviews, book reviews and more! On Sundays I have Soundtrack Sundays where I post a new score piece, Tuesdays are Tea Tuesdays with tea reviews, Wednesdays I have Wonderful Word Wednesdays where I post a new vocabulary word, and Fridays are Fan Fridays where I post tags and other goodies. To help support my dream to be an author follow this blog, like me on Facebook, watch me on deviantART, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter. If you want to know more about my books check out them out here. Thank you! :)


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tone Down But Don't Water Down





This may not become one of my most popular posts, but I feel like this needs to be said. I'm going to keep it all at PG level.

One thing that's always bothered me as a Christian and just as a lover of stories is with a lot of movies, shows, and books out there they're either too explicit or watered down in content. Game of Thrones though it has a very interesting plot and setting is so explicit I can't even watch it. Some shows designated for younger audiences (Hey, some kid shows have good plots without the added crap) are so watered down that the baddies or events don't seem realistic.

For example: The baddie should've killed that one person, but because it's a kid show, he didn't.

I'm a stickler on realism for my books. My bad guys are bad. I don't like cartoony villains. So much so I wrote two posts about writing good ones. My characters go through real and sometimes very severe issues and have done or do terrible things, because people go through those things. But if I can avoid cursing, too intimate scenes, and extreme gore in my media I do, and I'm twenty.

Call me a pansy, but those things affect us and adult or no I don't think we don't need to expose ourselves to that. We get enough not of our will. I know I'm not the only one out there who thinks this. But these severe things also happen. It's just the world we live in. But there's a way to write realistically without making it hard on a reader.

So I'm going to show you how to imply these things. In my opinion, implying a severe event is often more powerful than showing it because your reader can fill it in. Readers aren't stupid. They figure stuff out.

1.) Drop Clues - Mention the past severe event subtly. Just give the reader little puzzle pieces so Avatar: The Last Airbender did this very well. It's a show set in an Eastern-Asian-like environment where people can bend the elements.

Warning: Some spoilers here. 

For Example: In the episode Day of Black Sun Part 2 Ozai and Zuko (father and son) spoke. Zuko's mother had been missing for years since her mysterious disappearance. Zuko wanted to know what happened after Ozai taunted him with information.

Up to this point we've only been given minimum clues. Ozai threatened to kill Zuko for the position as Firelord (basically king in their country), Zuko's mother told Zuko that she loved him no matter what on the night of her disappearance and Zuko's grandfather, the current Firelord at that time, died that night.

When Ozai told the story he used subtle words so they would go over a younger viewer's head, but obvious enough so an older viewer can watch it and understand the severity. Ozai said, "Your mother did vicious treason that night. She knew the consequences and accepted them. For her treason, she was banished." Not watered down and not overly explicit. A happy medium, and it worked beautifully.

Firelord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender
2.) Minimum Description - Describe the current event just enough so the reader gets a picture. Suzanne Collins in the Hunger Games did that well many times.

For example: In Catching Fire one of the characters "drew a red smile on [another character's] throat" with a knife. We get what happened without gory details, but a good enough picture so we're in the scene.

Another example is if someone is beheaded we don't need extreme details about the head. It's unsettling and just plain gross, and this is coming from a country girl who helped her dad clean deer since she was four.

This can also be applied to cursing. Just say "He cursed" or "He screamed obscenities" or something of the like. I don't like cursing. A lot of people don't like it. It's not classy. I may get some tomatoes thrown at me for that, but it just is.

You're a writer. There are so many words out there that can express frustration, anger, joy or whatever without using a curse word. And don't pull a Cornelia Funke in Inkheart where she says her character cursed then just has them curse in dialogue, too. That kinda defeats the point. If you want a swear word and you're writing speculative fiction, you can make up alternative curse words like "Gorram" in Firefly or "Pigsnout" in Jill Williamson's Blood of Kings series.
Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games

3.) Have It Happen Off Camera - For a severe event that happens in the current timeline, just cut past the severe scene entirely and imply what happened either by visual evidence, interior monologue or both.

For Example: In Avatar: the Last Airbender (Yes, I know I mention this show a lot, but I love it. XD ) Zuko gets severely burned by his own father, but we never see it. The camera pans off of poor thirteen year old Zuko, and we just hear the flames, and his scream.

For Example: In Captives by Jill Williamson and Masters & Slayers by Bryan Davis, two severe intimate scenes happen or have happened, but they are done off camera. Jill Williamson's character wakes up in bed and Bryan Davis has his characters recollect the dialogue of the perverted man.

I have a character that's intimate with someone under duress, but I just have him walk out of the bed chamber and think about it subtly. We don't need extreme details about what happened, but we get what was done was bad, and the event isn't watered down.

Young Prince Zuko

A perk to implying in your books, is that you get a more diverse readership. I've heard people boycott a book for cursing, but not a lack of thereof. Another thing, I urge you to imply when especially writing for YA if you're a youth yourself or no.

Young people are very influenced by what they read, and let's try to keep the bookshelves clean if we can. We want to be good examples for ours and the next generations. We already get filth from just being out in the world, let's try to keep it pretty clean while still being realistic in the imaginary worlds and give our readers a sanctuary. :)


What do you think? Have you read books that imply severe elements well? Have you read books that are overly explicit?


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Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Book Review of Liberator by Bryan Davis

Buy from Amazon!
For years, tales of DRAGONS from another world kidnapping and enslaving humans have been circulating in Jason Masters' world, while for a slave girl named Koren, the stories of a human world seem pure myth. Together, these two teens will need to bridge two planets in order to overthrow the draconic threat and bring the lost slaves home. The Time Has Come As the long-awaited invasion of human forces looms, Jason, Koren, and Elyssa struggle to alert the soldiers to an unforeseen menace on the planet of Starlight---a deadly illness that already has Koren in its grip. Starlighter Cassabrie harbors a secret she believes can counter the dragon king Taushin's latest maneuverings, but she can disclose little of her risky plan. 

As Cassabrie fights to save her people, the dragon Magnar works to move the Starlight prophecy in his favor. His actions could make the plight of humans even more perilous. Wishing only to free the slaves and bring peace, a few young warriors are poised to face three armies as they battle for control of two worlds. Can love, faith, and courage be enough? Will Cassabrie be humanity's last hope?

Series: Dragons of Starlight (Book 4)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Zondervan (July 24, 2012) 
Page Count: 432 

What I liked: Another great ending tale to complete a good series. Personally I enjoyed Dragons in Our Midst and Oracles of Fire more, but this one was pretty good too. It had an epic battle with humans and fire-breathing and ice-breathing dragons, and a love triangle that kept me guessing until close to the end, complete with a wedding to wrap it all up.

No spoilers to who gets together with who. ;) As with all of Mr. Davis's book, it is full of life lessons, love, honor and sacrifice. This book had me almost in tears when two of the characters died and the ending was a little bittersweet. The prose created beautiful pictures in my head.

What I didn't like: I was like, "gosh, darn it" with one of the deaths and that made me kinda mad, but I wouldn't say that would decrease the rating of the series. Some of the paragraphs were a bit long which sometimes slowed down my reading a good deal, but it wasn't too bad.

Content Cautions: There is some gore as expected with a book dealing with war, but nothing too severe to worry about.

Over all I give the book four stars! :) Thank you, Mr. Davis, for another good series. :)



About the Author: 

Bryan Davis is the author of the following young adult fantasy series: Dragons in our Midst, Oracles of Fire, Echoes from the Edge, and Dragons of Starlight. He also wrote I Know Why the Angels dance, a contemporary novel for adults.

After laboring as a computer geek for 20 years, Bryan followed a dream to become an author. He began by writing a story to motivate his seven children to gain some excitement about writing, and that story grew into a novel. After spending the next eight years learning the craft and enduring more than 200 rejections from publishers and agents, he broke through with his best-selling series Dragons in our Midst. He is now a full-time author and lives with his wife, Susie, and their children in western Tennessee.

You can find him on FacebookTwitterGoodreads and his website! I also have an interview with him I had on the blog!

Other Books in the Series:
Dragons of Starlight Book 3: Diviner

If you enjoyed this review, you can find more over on the Book Reviews tab of click the link. :)

If you liked this post, come back every Saturday for more writing advice, character interviews, book reviews and more! On Sundays I have Soundtrack Sundays where I post a new score piece, Tuesdays are Tea Tuesdays with tea reviews, Wednesdays I have Wonderful Word Wednesdays where I post a new vocabulary word, and Fridays are Fan Fridays where I post tags and other goodies. To help support my dream to be an author follow this blog, like me on Facebook, watch me on deviantART, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter. If you want to know more about my books check out them out here. Thank you! :)