5 Tips to Creating Dynamic Characters

There are countless parts of the writing process that make you want to tear your hair out. World building? Difficult. Plot? A mountain to climb. But there is a part of writing that feels as intimidating as crafting a good twist: creating characters. Creating your characters can be as easy as throwing some traits together and calling it a day. Creating well-rounded, dynamic characters is more of a nail-biting process. You want them to jump off the page, but still feel like real people in the world you’ve created. When creating my own characters, I’ve found a few tips that have helped me make my characters more dynamic and relatable. 

  1. Research is key

For those who love starting a story blind, this may be a nerve-wracking step for you. However, research can be a useful tool when creating your characters. It’s not just for worldbuilding! If you have a bare bones idea of who you want your character to be, use those bare bones to learn more about your character. This research is very important if you are writing characters in a different time or if they are someone with a different life experience from you. If you want your character to be a suffragette in England during the 1910s, you need to research the ladies of that movement. If you want to write a character who is a part of a community that you are not, interview someone in that community to get an insight into their experiences. The information you gather isn’t something you necessarily have to replicate when creating your character. Instead, use this research as a lens to sharpen your character. It’s like the glasses of writing! 

  1. Character Sheets are (sometimes) your friend

Character sheets are either the bane or savior of a writer’s existence. They can be a great tool, but also a bit overwhelming. A character sheet is a long document where you write down many different facets of your character to help flesh them out. Everything from their favorite color to their morals is on this sheet. It’s a great tool to help you humanize your characters. It’s also a great guide for those times you get stuck writing. How would your character react to a situation? Consult your character sheet and you’ll be able to determine how their reactions will alter the plot. If you’ve tried a character sheet before and got overwhelmed, you’re not alone. I often get overwhelmed by the details you need to use to fill out the sheet. Try filling out some basic information on the sheet as a jumping off point. If you discover things later down the line about your character, you can add it to the sheet. Once you’ve finished your draft, you can use this sheet to make sure that the character’s actions are consistent.

  1. Use visual references for your characters

If you are a visual person like me, sometimes describing characters can be hard without visualizing them first. If you are someone who draws, try drawing your character using the descriptive words you already have. Adjust these descriptors as needed once you have your character drawn out. I sadly did not get the drawing gene, so I use a different approach. I call it the “movie book cast”. Think about people who you would cast in a movie version of your book. What about their appearance and body language is similar to one of your characters? Use their inspiration to help make your descriptors more concise.  

  1. Take inspiration from your own favorite characters

There are many books that inspire us to write within a certain genre. Characters do that as well. This means it’s time for one of my favorite things, a list. First, write down what you already know about your character. What are their traits, their morals, etc? Then, make a list of characters who have inspired you. Write down their attributes, and pick out a few that you think would go well with your character. It is very important that you use this as inspiration, not as a copy and paste deal. If you love Elizabeth Bennett, don’t put a new name on her and put her into your story. Instead, think of why you love Elizabeth and use these traits as inspiration to create your own character. 

  1. Don’t be afraid of flaws

When writing a story, a compelling tale is a must. How can you accomplish this with perfect characters? Newsflash, you can’t. Characters need to have flaws just like real life people. If you write a perfect protagonist going on a hero’s journey, there’s no point to the story. How will they grow if they’re perfect to begin with? This is when research and the good old character sheet come in handy. Use the information you gather from these to help determine these flaws. Are they a frustratingly perfect hero on a quest? Think about why they are going. Many times characters begin their journey for the wrong reasons, which is where the flaws begin to appear. Flaws are what make your characters relatable and interesting. It also makes your story interesting. No one cares about someone who can go through hardships without batting an eye. If you’re not sure where to begin, reference tip number four. What are the flaws of your favorite characters, and why were they present? Use them as a jumping off point to help you figure out how to humanize your own characters.

Creating a dynamic character in the world of your imagination is hard, but so worth it. Once you have them fleshed out, the story seems a little less intimidating. What is your process for creating characters? Have you ever tried these steps before, and did they help you? Let me know in the comments below! I hope that these tips can help you with character creation, especially during the upcoming NaNoWriMo. We have about a month, but it’s never too early to start planning. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!

3 Ways To Make Pitching your Story Less Scary

Writing is a daunting task. Anytime words flow out of a person to create a narrative, it’s a long and sometimes brutal process. During this time, it’s easy to get into your own head about your writing. I do this all the time, especially when I’m working on a new story idea. When your burrow your head deep into the text, it can be hard to pull yourself out to look at the bigger picture. If you miss a look at the big picture, you might not catch a duplicated leave with an incoherent story. To help yourself find these areas in need of fixing, it’s time to consult. It’s time to pitch your story.

Pitching sounds like an official and scary word, but it doesn’t have to be. Pitching can be everything from a well-designed presentation to a conversation. After my deep dive into NaNoWriMo and Save the Cat, I’ve grown to appreciate the pitch. I’m also in the business and advertising worlds, so I’m well aware of the benefits in that world. I was happy to see that it’s helpful for writing as well! It may seem scary, but pitching an idea doesn’t have to be nail-biting. Here are three tips to help keep decrease the nerves

  1. Pitch to someone you trust

If you are in the writing stage and need story advice, talk to someone you trust about your story. Talking it out is a great way to look at your story in a new light, and it can help you get a new perspective on some plot points. Pitching to someone you trust is super important. If you are self-conscious about your writing, like me, it’s a must. If you have a fellow writer that you trust, go to them first. They can give you more technical advice that could help take your writing to the next level. If you don’t have a writer buddy, that’s okay. A close friend outside of the writing world can still give good feedback. I usually talk to my sister, who is both a fellow writer and someone who understands my weird personality. She knows how to tell me an idea is dumb without upsetting me, and I often get new ideas for my plots when I speak to her. It’s a win-win. 

  1. Think about something you want advice on beforehand.

Before speaking to your trusted confidant, think about the issues you see already. Is a character falling flat for you? Is an added theme taking away from the story? Jot these thoughts down and ask. This is especially helpful if you have a writing confidant. Asking specific questions will help give them a starting point for discussion. This is helpful if your questions are more specific to the technical side of writing. These questions are good for non-writers as well. You might discover that something you were questioning isn’t a problem for a reader.

  1. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Like many things, pitching becomes less scary the more you do it. As someone who still gets nervous talking about my story idea around some people, I know how it feels. All you can do is jump in and keep going. Speak to other friends, teachers, and colleagues about your idea. Keep it casual, but make sure you hit some general points in your conversation. This is where the questions come in handy. Ask each person the same questions as a baseline. Let the conversation go from there in an organic way. This makes it easier to repeat this process and get even more results. Over time, you’ll see a decrease in your nerves and a more confident approach to receiving advice. In the long run, this is key to get more confident. If you pitch your story to an agent and a publisher, this confidence will go a long way.

Pitching is still a bit nerve-wracking for me, but I’ve found these three steps super helpful. Three years ago, I would have been nervous to share my writing with my sister. Now we toss ideas around with casual air. No nerves in sight. I have faith that you will be able to get there someday as well! What are your experiences with pitching a story? Do you have any advice on how to lessen the nerves? Let me know in the comments below! If you do end up pitching a story in the future, let me know how it goes. Go forth my fellow writers. You’ve got this! Thanks so much for reading and happy writing!

Rejuvenating with Writing

 It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that things have been a bit rough for a lot of people recently.  We’re all grasping at straws to find some hint of what used to be normal, while trying to grow and change at the same time. On the whole, it can get a bit exhausting. Sometimes you have to take a break from the glaring reality flashing in your face. Whether it’s gardening, Zoom calling your friends, or reading a book, you need something to rejuvenate your spirit. To keep you on the path towards a brighter future.

For the longest time, the only thing that fell into this category for me was reading. Then music joined the mix, but it’s a bit difficult to quietly practice a clarinet in an apartment complex. Especially when everyone is at home to hear your cringey attempts at relearning scales. Reading has been a comfort to me, but I’ve also found that writing has joined the ranks as well. When I write, that is. Writing can ebb and flow in my life to extreme degrees. So, when it is in my grasp, I snatch it up like a child catching a lightning bug. Cupped firmly-but delicately- in two hands, to see the glow of inspiration between fingers. 

Writing this blog has been a mixed bag for me right now. Some days, I can feel the ideas for future content flowing from me. But only when I’m in a location where writing said ideas down is an impossibility. Most days it feels like a chore, but one that I enjoy doing once I’m in the middle of it. I’m sure you have something in your life like that right now. 

But the nice thing about writing right now, despite my lack of inspiration, is time. Time to focus on research rabbit holes about 1920s archaeologists, or invent an underground network of spies. If you feel stuck in the rejuvenating hobby, try a new strategy. For me, this new strategy is research or character sheets. I can pull myself into parts of writing that normally won’t cross my mind until I’m in the thick of a writing session. Researching might not add words to the page, but it can add ideas to my mind that I can pluck out later when I’m stuck. Designing a new character might put their words on the page in a new way. It’s also a great way to learn about how your characters will interact differently with each of the characters in your novel.  

If you’re like me, staring at your lack of life progress in frustration, take time to rejuvenate. If you feel stuck, try that new strategy. Take a new look at another piece of it that will help the big picture. Rabbit holes of researching or learning about writing are some ways that I’ve kept my big picture. How will you help yours? What are you doing, or are wishing that you could do, to reignite your spirit? Let me know in the comments below. Stay safe out there everyone, and happy writing. 

 

6 Tips for Naming a Character

There are many things to figure out when creating a story. Where does it take place? What’s going on? Why are your characters involved? One of the most important aspects to figure out is something that can be deceivingly difficult; your character’s names. Naming a character can be a walk in the park for some, but others can struggle to find that perfect name. Even when you find a good name, it might be up in the air. It might not work for them later on in the story, and then you’re back to square one. When faced with the character-naming struggle, there are a few ways you can find the perfect name. Here are a few tips to help get you on the right path.

1.  Consult the Census

If you are writing a historical novel, or even one that takes place in our modern world, the census is a great asset. This is especially true if you are in the United States and your story takes place in the US as well. First, figure out when your story is taking place. Then, look up “census names for” and then the year or decade of the story. Try to focus on the top 100 or top 150 names when considering your options. This gives you a lot of options, and allows you to use a more unique name if you want. It can also be fun to switch it up a little! If you’re writing a fantasy novel, it might be fun to name your characters names from the 1920s or 1800s. Keep your mind open. You never know what you’ll find!

2.  Graveyards 

This option is a bit creepy, but many authors have used this tactic to name their characters. If you are visiting or live in a city with old graveyards, it’s a huge bonus. Take a notebook with you and write  down names that you find interesting. Write down first and last names so that you can mix and match when you get home. You might find a great name for a character among many tombstones. This option is great for any novel, not only historic ones. If you do this, there are of course a few rules. Most important, be respectful. Don’t write down the name of someone who’s family is in the cemetery with you. Also, only visit when the cemetery is open and you are able to go inside. As long as you follow these rules, this is a great option to get those creative juices flowing. 

3. Baby Name Sites

This a more obvious option, but still a great way to find a name for your character. You can search baby names by region, time-period, origin, and meaning.  If you’ve already figured out some attributes of your character, try searching names with meanings that match. Or, you can name your character a name that represents who they will become by the end of the story. Baby name sites are also great because they have an endless list of names that can expand your horizons. If you want your character to have an E name but you’re avoiding Emily or Edward, these sites will give you some great options. They also have names by region and origin, which you can use to find names that match your character’s family background or location. 

4. Shakespeare…and other historical texts

He’s back on my blog already! This might not be ideal for all genres, but Shakespeare is a great resource for character names. His plays have interesting names and names that are common even today. You can edit these names to fit in a modern setting, such as a character named Titania who goes by Nia. Many of these names also work in a fantasy setting. After all, Hermione from Harry Potter got her name from Shakespeare! You can also check out classics novels and mythology for name inspiration. 

5. Name Generators

When all else fails, these are a great inspiration for character names.  There are generators that spit out completely random names. They’re both fun and helpful for characters in our world. There are also generators where you can narrow down the name options by many factors. Either way, you should get many name ideas from this option. As you go, write down the names that the generator recommends to you. Then you can go back to these options later and choose between them. You can also get inspiration for other characters in the future! There are so many generators to choose from, but I found Name-Generator.org.uk has some good options. You can check them out here

6. Family Tree

This might seem a bit weird, but it’s a great way to find names. If your story takes places in the 1930s, consult your family tree (if you have one) for the time that your characters were born. So if your characters are in their 20s in the 1930s, look at your family tree for peopl born in the 1910s. If you have the information available to you, looking at names on both sides of your family is a great way to come up with a unique name. For one of my stories, I named a character after the first name of my great-great paternal grandmother. Her last name was from my maternal great-grandmother’s side of the family. This is also a great way to get to know your family better while you’re writing a story! Or find some wacky names in your family history. 

Have you ever tried these tactics to name your characters? What is your favorite way to find names for your characters? Let me know in the comments below! If you’ve found a way to name your characters that I haven’t mentioned, leave a comment. I’m always looking for new ways to approach the writing process! I hope this post has helped you jump start your character-naming process. Thanks so much for reading and happy writing!

Impostor Syndrome: A Writer’s Worst Nightmare

It’s that time of the day. Time to crack open a notebook or open your laptop with a mission to write. Before jumping into the creative pool inside your mind, the blank space makes your brain pause. Your brain starts to buzz, thoughts blurring together into a frenzy. Among the sound of trapped bees buzzing in your head, one thought is loudest of all. Can I really do this? 

Creativity is a vast and diverse landscape, but people still deal with this question. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of pulling stories or notes out of thin air to create new projects. While it’s prevalent in all fields, it blossoms in creative ones like a weed. If you’re not careful, it can kill the flowers in your garden of creativity. Impostor syndrome is a tricky thing, after all.

Impostor syndrome is hard to ignore. When all you want to do is write, but you can’t help thinking about those who are better than you. It doesn’t matter that those authors have been practicing for ages to get where they are. The evil impostor syndrome plays a Jedi mind trick on you to miss those obvious facts. As someone who often faces this looming figure, it can be a daunting obstacle. Especially in a creative city.

A few years ago, I moved to the creative and bustling city of Nashville, TN. It was so exciting to surround myself with music, art and writers. When I did my first year of NaNoWriMo in Nashville, I realized that so many people had the same skill as me. But they wrote like they had perfected their writing skills at Oxford or Yale. Meanwhile, I was in the corner creating middle-school level stuff in comparison. Instead of meeting with groups to discuss my writing, I hid in a local Panera and worked by myself. I felt terrified that they would look down on me for my writing, even though I never met them. I was an impostor in the writing community, and it was only a matter of time before they found out.

Not much has changed since I first dipped my toe into the writing world. I often look at the wonderful, creative people and have that same question floating in my head. It even almost prevented me from starting this blog. I started it four times before I finally shut up that doubting voice and hit post. I have to remind myself that practicing is as important for writing as it is for playing instrument. I can’t reach my potential without taking the time to fail. 

That’s something I would encourage everyone in a creative field to remind themselves. You have to fail to learn, and it’s okay if you keep stumbling. What matters is that you get back up and keep going. Who knows what might lay in store for you down the path you’re traveling. When impostor syndrome blocks the path, you have to stand tall and deal with the obstacle. The other side of it might bring out something new in you that you could never predict.

Happy writing everyone! Never let impostor syndrome stop you from doing what you love.