Tag Archives: Characters

Tapping the flow

Last weekend I attended a writing seminar that turned out to be more of a workshop. I’ve been thinking about it over the last week, trying to work out why the workshop component frustrated me so much. I think I’ve got the answer, and I realise how silly it is.

The activities required that we come up with little story ideas to illustrate the points we had just been learning about. The problem is, when I ask my brain to get creative, it really doesn’t hold back. So, for three exercises it came up with three, full story ideas.

These ideas (and specifically the characters) have been coming back to haunt me all week. It’s as if they are wondering what they did wrong to make me ignore them? Why am I not finishing their story?!?

For me, I don’t feel like story ideas are drawn from a well of creativity, as I’ve heard others describe it, but rather they are tapped from below. Once that trickle starts, my experience is that it won’t stop until the story reservoir is dry.

I punched three holes in the story current above me last weekend, and now I can’t stop the drip, no matter how much I try to plug them. I suspect the only way I’ll be free is to finish writing them.

The meaning in things

This week my great Aunt died. While I hadn’t spent a lot of time with her in recent years, she was a big part of my childhood family-gathering memories. She is also the last of that generation to go, which opens up a whole plethora of feelings which I won’t be exploring here.

Next week my parents and I will likely go down and start clearing out her house, disposing of possessions that would have meant so much to my great Aunt, but to us are just things. It’s led to the inevitable review of my own life and all the collections in my house. How would my stuff look through the eyes of someone else?

I look at the biology text book that I’ve lugged from Adelaide, to Brisbane, to Melbourne and back to Adelaide as I’ve moved around the country. It’s well out of date, and I haven’t opened it in years, but every time I look at it, I have fond memories of all the hours I spent pouring over it for Uni when I still believed that I could work as a zoologist. No-one else will see that book that way.

There is the stuffed toy that was my favourite as a child, the framed drawing done for me by a friend at a time when I needed it, the glasses I bought myself as a gift to when I had my first paid publication, and of course the beautiful Archaeopteryx that I’d wanted for as long as I could remember and a special boyfriend managed to track down for me as a wonderful surprise.

All these things are just things, but they are the things that make up my past and colour my future. I just hope that I can give my Aunt’s things the respect and attention that they deserve.


Caring about characters

This week I finished writing another novel. That’s four novels completely finished off in my life, two in the last 18 months. With the first three, when I got to ‘The End’ I bawled my eyes out. This time I didn’t. I don’t think that bodes well.

When I cry it is not because the books are so soppy at the end, only one was really, but it is because I know I’m leaving the characters and I won’t see what happens in their lives any more. It is like breaking up with a bunch of friends all at once.

Does not crying in the last book mean I don’t care what happens to these characters? If that is the case, why would anyone else care about them? If a reader doesn’t care about the characters then they will have no drive to turn the page. I think as soon as I can work out why I have no emotional ties to these characters then I can fix the book.

On the up side, I got my beta-reader feedback about my other novel, and I am so excited to get back in there and incorporate what was given to me. I can’t help but think some of that excitement is because I miss those characters and I want to spend more time with them. I think that is how I should feel with all my books.


Top 10 Authors – Eoin Colfer

It should be no surprise to find Eoin’s name here. I’ve publically declared I’ve hugged two of his books after reading them (there is now a third to add to that list). Eoin makes my list for his total body of work. I have read both his adult and young adult books and I love them all.

I think a big part of what I like about these books is that the sense of humour meshes so well with my own. There have been several occasions where I have laughed out loud on the bus, and I’m normally quite a reserved reader. I know this is a very personal thing, but hey, this is my top 10 so it gets a place.

The other thing I like about these books is the characters. They are not only humorous, but they are flawed (something else I can relate to) but deep down they are good. I like reading about good people, even if they do bad things by accident or omission. It is so much nicer to climb into the head of a good person than a bad one. Less muck sticks as well.

Eoin’s books are definitely the novels I turn to when I need to feel inspired to write again. When I read them, it makes me want to be a writer. I can imagine my characters hanging out with his and having a really good time. I actually love these books so much that I’ve set a limit on them, so that I don’t use up all their magic too quickly.

If you want to try them for yourself, and you don’t want to commit to his series (though you’d be doing yourself a favour if you did) then try ‘Half Moon Investigations’ – it is stand alone, but is very representative of Eoin’s style.

Timely description

I’m not a person who needs a lot of description, you tell me I’m on an island and I’ll create an island in my mind. If that island needs to be so large you can’t see from one end to the other and it is edged in cliffs, you need to tell me that. I was seeing a small sandy island with a few coconut trees.

The same goes for people. If a character’s vivid green eyes are going to star in chapter three, I need to know about them in chapter one, or else my character is likely to have different coloured eyes. The moment you tell me a character is called Sally, I build a fully formed picture in my mind of what Sally looks like. So if you need something on or about Sally, tell me about it up front.

That is as far as I go when it comes to description requirements. If Sally can look like anything, and you never mention her flowing blonde hair, or penchant for wearing cowboy boots somewhere later in the book, I’ll be happy if you just tell me her name is Sally. I do like to hook an age on her, but if you don’t give me one I’ll just assume she’s my age.

This is also how I write, and it gets me into trouble. I know a lot of readers out there want to know not only what the characters look like, but what they wear and even how they do their hair. You won’t get that from my stories unless it is relevant. Not only is that because I think clothes and hairstyles can date a story, but I think this unique picture is what the reader brings to the story, making them a part of it. It adds to what makes reading the book better than watching the movie.

Fan fiction?

My novel and I are having a few issues. Two of the characters are working really well with me, communicating lots, handing over great ideas and really coming alive. The other two are being a bit recalcitrant, whispering their secrets to each other and sometimes seeming to disappear off the page altogether. I think it is the wrong time to write it.

But with my October 31st submission deadline looming, and the upcoming WriMoFoFo, I needed to find a YA novel to write. So I jumped into the plans I had uncovered a couple of weeks ago and among the many ideas I discovered I had gone through a fan fiction phase.

It wasn’t your usual fan fiction; borrowing characters from other authors and living lives in other people’s worlds, instead I borrowed people. As I read the old stuff I saw me, my flatmates, River Phoenix, me, my chemistry teacher, Keanu Reeves, friends, me, my parents, Johnny Depp, me. It was a bit embarrassing to read.

The odd thing is, now I never use real people in my stories, I may use a hand gesture or a nervous tick, but I never package a whole, real person. But I can’t work out when my fan fiction writing ceased and my character writing began. There is no archaeopteryx with a few real ones and a few fakes as I made the transition.

Interestingly enough, all of my publications are stories entirely peopled with made up characters. So I’m glad I made the move, because obviously the stories these unknown people tell me are much more interesting than the fantasies I put myself in when I was younger.

Now names, that is a different story! I’m sorry, but if you have worked with me, you probably have a character named in part or full, after you. Please don’t sue; I can honestly say that they aren’t actually based on you!