CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Characters are the most important element in writing a fiction story. No matter how good your story is, if you don’t have believable characters that your readers can relate to, no one will enjoy reading it. They probably won’t even finish it.

The first thing to do when developing a character for a story is to write a thorough description. You need to be able to see the character in your mind if you want to make your readers see them. Go beyond the basic looks, each character needs distinguishing marks, a stance, or a accent in their dialogue, something that will stick in the reader’s mind every time that character comes up. Never over-describe a character, there’s no fine line here but you want to let the reader supply some of the details on their own, this is especially true for your lead character. Many if not most readers like to picture themselves as your leading character, by leaving out some of the details you’ll make this possible for more people.

The second thing to do when creating a character is to write a character sketch. This is where you develop their personality. Write down everything that comes to mind about the character, you never know when the smallest idiosyncrasy or habit from the character sketch may show up in the story line.

Here are a few things to consider when developing a character

What kind of relationship did they have with their parents and siblings or other family members?

What about their obsessions, what some people refer to as pet-peeves? Most people have at least one and knowing what it is can be a big insight into their personality.

What are their vices? Unfortunately everyone has them even if they are well hidden.

Do they have a hobby?

Do they collect anything?

What are they proud of or embarassed about?

What are their talents or strengths?

What are their flaws or weaknesses?

Do they have a favorite color?

What kind of music do they like?

Which is their favorite season or holiday?

Are they open and sociable or shy and withdrawn?

What drives or motivates your character?

What are their hopes and dreams for the future?

What sort of turning points did they have in their life? Was it the death of someone close? A success or failure? A right or wrong decision?

What are they afraid of? Sometime our fears determine who and what we are more so than any other thing in life.

These are only a few examples, any little quirks you can come up with will make your characters more realistic and believable. You want things that your readers will relate to. Most people enjoy the books or stories more if they can see themselves as one of your characters.

The next thing that needs to be done is to write a biography for each character, a history. I find it more useful to write it as an autobiography, from the character’s point of view. This is extremely important if you are to make them believable in print. Whenever possible, I use someone I know as a base for the character. I’ve found that doing this will make them seem more realistic, it tends to give them an authentic flavor as it were.

Another method that some writers use when developing a character is to do an interview with each character. A good session of questions and answers will often give you more depth into the personality of the characters, one that you wouldn’t get any other way. The best way that I have found to conduct the interviews is what I refer to as the “Rapidfire” method. This is done by writing without stopping to think or edit. I always use a pen and paper just as if I were interviewing a real world person, you can type it and worry about spelling later. Don’t prepare the questions in advance either, let the answer you get to one question determine what your next question will be. Let the character answer each question with the first thought that comes to mind without censoring. Have fun with it, this in and of itself is not a great work of literature, you’re just getting to know your characters.

I’ve always found that drawing up a character tree showing how all the characters relate to and interact with each other helps to keep me from making drastic mistakes and overlaps. If you have only three or four characters this is probably superfluous, but if you have a lot of characters as I do in most of my stories it is an indispensable tool.

In conclusion; always remember, the more real a character is to you, the more real they will be to your readers.

What is the Difference between Fantasizing and Visualizing?

I am sure that there are examples where either of those words cannot replace the other, but those instances are sure to be few and far between.

When you Visualize something you are essentially seeing something that is not there of not there yet, which happens to be exactly what you are doing when you fantasize.

One could state that Visualizing is mainly a visual or seeing event, where as Fantasizing CAN and frequently DOES incorporate all or most of the senses. In  that light, you could say that Fantasizing is a more advanced form than the more simple, Visualizing. I guess it’d be sort of like comparing Chess to Checkers. They are both the same basic game with one being much more complex than the other.

Is Fantasy an Art Form?

Not IN and OF itself. However, there could be no art without it. An artist, no matter what form of art they are working with, must first visualize, or rather see what they are creating before they can create it. Any of the great sculptors, of stone, wood, clay, or any other material all sculpt the same way. They have to see the object that they are sculpting, then they simply remove everything that doesn’t belong.

The same goes for other types of artists as well. If they are sketching, drawing, or painting a picture, then they must see it first. If they are composing a musical number, then they must hear it first.

Any form of art must first be created in the mind, the artist then simply duplicates it in the physical world so that the rest of us can enjoy it as well.

Fantasies CAN come True

Not all fantasies have to be about unreality, like my magical realm that I use in so many of my stories or the exotic planets of my space dreams. Fantasies of the future can indeed come to life. This type of fantasizing is absolutely essential if you wish to create the future that you want for yourself, in fact, you will never succeed in any endeavor if you do not fantasize about it.

The key to succeeding at something is about ten percent knowledge, another ten percent of pure will power and eighty percent visualization. Put simply, you MUST see yourself as having already done it, that it’s already an accomplished fact, before you even start. That’s eighty percent of the battle that’s already fought and WON!

From even before I began to write my novel, I saw it as a published book. Before I ever started working with the artist I knew exactly what the cover should look like, and indeed, it did end up looking exactly like I envisioned it. Visualization, which is just another way of saying fantasizing, kept me focused.

I can give you another great example from my quest to become a pilot. One of the first things my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) started drilling into my head was the importance of what he referred to as “Arm Chair Flying”. He explained that from a student pilot like myself to a fifty thousand hour Airline Pilot, that Arm Chair Flying is one of the best teaching tools of the trade.

Arm Chair Flying is where you literally sit down in a chair, close your eyes, clear your mind, then picture yourself at the controls of your aircraft. Whatever the maneuver you are trying to perfect, you do it, with all of the detail and accuracy that your mind will allow.

Make Believe, Fantasy, Arm Chair Flying, whichever you choose to call it, is how a pilot perfects everything from landing the plane to handling a rare emergency. Even the pilots that have access to a multi-million dollar flight simulator still practice Armchair Flying at home.

So in conclusion let me wrap this post up by saying that Fantasizing is a wonderful tool that can be used to help you learn, establish routines, reach for your goals as well as all of the other uses that you’ve already found for it.

There be Witches here

I’ve been asked many times why so many of my stories have to do with witches and witchcraft. I think it is largely due to the fact that I was exposed to Wicca at an early age. I realize now that compared to my fantasies, Wicca is actually more like a religion than magic but to a Pre-teenager it held all the mystique and mysteriousness as the real thing would have.

There were two of them, sisters, living in a small rustic cabin in a dark patch of pine woods. You could see the cabin long before you reached it because it always seemed to sit in a puddle of light. As a kid it seemed spooky because the sun seemed to always be shinning on their cabin but no where else. Of course now, looking back, I realize that when they built the cabin they had to cut out a few trees which created a hole in the canopy, hence the puddle of sunlight, but to a young kid it seemed absolutely magical.

No one in our tight knit christian community would admit that we actually had two witches living amongst us. No one spoke of it, but when something stumped the doctors, like a real bad case of poison ivy or a persistant wart or anything that their doctor couldn’t figure out, guess who they went to? That’s right, the witches. The sisters were always brewing up potions for people, who would promptly go home and pour them into empty medicine bottles so that they could say that it came from the pharmacy.

That’s how I first met them, poison ivy. Our family doctor told my parents that nothing he was doing was working and that it had gotten so bad that it could be dangerous, possibly even fatal. He suggested that she take me to them. One of them had me strip down to my underware then she moved her hands all over me like she was rubbing me, only she never actually touched me.
While she did that she was chanting something I couldn’t understand, it sounded like english, but if it was she was using words that I had never heard before.

After she finished she had me get dressed and told my parents that they’d see a difference by morning, it’d be gone within a week and I’d never be able to get it again. Now you can believe me or not, but I can still rub those leaves on my arms or legs and it doesn’t affect me one bit.

The sisters never charged anything for their services but they did keep a small kettle hanging by the door so that someone could donate something to the cause. I guess most people did, at least I never heard of either of them having to get a job. A week later, after all my skin had cleared up, mom took me down there with her to thank them and I saw her drop a hundred dollar bill in that kettle.

Degrees of Awareness

Fantasizing can take place on many varying levels of awareness, from a total immersion on one end of the scale to a simple overlay on the other. Total immersion is when you are so deep into the fantasy that the real world is blocked from your senses. A simple overlay is when you are still completely aware of the real world around you, it’s just that you perceive it differently.

With a total immersion you are actually in a dream state where the fantasy IS your reality while you are in it. This is the type that is the most helpful when I am writing a fantasy novel because it enables me to establish that fantasy world as a tangible place. It is also the same type that needs to be done when you are HOME and ALONE to be safe because you lose touch with reality while you are immersed so completely.

On the other hand, the overlay type of fantasy is safe to be anytime or anywhere because it leaves you completely aware of everything around you and more importantly, able to react to it. There are times that I find myself well into one of these before I even realize it. By now, fantasizing is so much a part of my life, I can’t imagine what it would be like without it, nor would I want to.

My very first Fantasy World

Between my elementary school and my house, which were practically within sight of each other, there was a small patch of woods. Those few acres became my private playground and was also the physical location of my very first fantasy world. I guess I should say worlds, because although I had a few favorites that I visualized over and over, it was seldom the same twice in a row.

Sometimes I would pretend to be a big game hunter on a safari, or an explorer on an expedition into a forbidden forest or even an archeologist in a deep, dark jungle looking for a lost city, but my two favorites by far were alien worlds and the magical realm.  The alien worlds truly gave my imagination a free reign, literally anything was possible, where as in the magical realm I was always a powerful wizard battling the dark forces or riding dragons or brooms, weaving spells with my wand or staff.

I used to wile away the hours there playing in my make believe fantasy worlds. Once, before my parents knew exactly where I was disappearing to, I was there long enough that they got worried and had the entire police force of my small home town, at least fifteen men, looking for me. After that I had to tell my parents when and where I was going and they’d tell me when to come home, I did get my first watch out of  the deal anyway.

I want to stress, for any kids out there reading this, it was a gentler time back then, not as much to happen to a kid alone in the woods. In these modern, more dangerous times, ALWAYS let your parents know exactly where you are and what you are doing, AND get their approval too. There’s too many bad people out there now that wouldn’t think twice about hurting a kid. Although I promote fantasizing, always put safety first, fun and adventure second, then have a blast.

Grow out of my fantasies, NEVER!

Everyone used to tell me that I’d grow out of it, fantasizing that is. They said that as I got older I would begin to focus more on the real world and leave all of this fantasizing behind, they lied. Oh I’m sure that they thought they were telling me the truth, it was probably the way it happened to them, but not for me.

My fantasies mean more to me now, are more than ever an integral part of my life than they were when I was eight or ten. Fantasizing is my main tool for dealing with the stress that reality is continually trying to throw at me, but more than that, it’s the way I entertain myself, I am never ever bored.

There’s NEVER a day that I can honestly say that I spent the entire day without a fantasy. Now some days it happens more than on the others, but I can’t remember a day when I didn’t fantasize about something, if for no other reason than to simply pass the time.

My fantasies are what led me to become the storyteller that I’ve always been as well as the writer that I am becoming. I’ve always enjoyed sharing my fantasies with others and even though I love telling my tales to a group of rapt listeners, writing may let me share my stories with a lot more people than I ever could in person.

Can you survive without Fantasies?

A man I met today claims that he has never had a fantasy. He says that he has never dreamed of being someone that he is not, or of being in a place that he has never been or does not exist. I really find it difficult to believe this man. I personally could not survive without my fantasies and fantasy worlds to escape into. I believe that I would go quite mad without them. I have always had them, as far back as I can remember.

You might think that my main question for him would have been HOW, but it wasn’t, it was WHY. How is easy, I could stop creating my fantasies, only why would I want to? Why would I want to stop the very thing that keeps me Sane in an Insane world? If he truly is living his life without fantasies, then I truly feel sorry for him.