About Writing on Wednesdays: What Kind Of Character Do You Have?

Faith Hunter, Ed Schubert and Larry Correa discussed their thoughts about character development in this panel at Stellarcon.

The focus was on the protagonist and how to create him or her with the something extra that makes a reader’s eyes pop out. Something more than eye color, hair color, weight or height. The something that makes them keep reading and want more.

You love your character. S/he is the best thing since sliced bread. Naaaannnh! This is a huge red flag that your character is bor-ing. Part of the story is the flawed character that needs improvement. To keep the reader interested your character must grow and change through the end of the book.

However, your character can’t just change without warning. Something has to make the character see him/herself clearly. This is the point where the character transitions from good to bad or vice versa. The character must make a choice that determines his or her path for the rest of the book. A choice that helps decide how your book ends.

Readers must be able to relate to your characters. Some ways to humanize characters: have them fall short of a goal; have low self-esteem; break a code of honor; unable to complete a task; make them clumsy; have bad luck; have ill-health; have a phobia; not the sharpest marble; be shy or walk away from something because it’s too hard.

Flaws to give your character: they’re judgemental; they have a temper; they’re impatient; they’re arrogant; they’re introverted; they’re a loner; they’re overconfident; they’re weak; they’re ignorant; too rigid and won’t change easily; prejudiced against race, religion, etc.; they’re amoral or too promiscuous.

A deeply flawed character discussed was Dexter from Showtime. A TV show based on a series of books. He is an example of a bad character who is fun to write. If you are not familiar with the show or books he is a serial killer.

I saw the first two seasons of Dexter before I cut Showtime loose. The premise was his stepfather saw the trait in him and directed his energies to killing other serial killers. The twist is he works for the police. I liked the show and now I’m thinking I should check out the books although I’m sure they’re nothing like the TV show.

Characters who walk a very narrow line between good and bad are Anne Stuart’s stock in trade.  In general her male protagonists are amoral but somehow she always manages to make them likeable if a little scary. True love puts them on the right path. Of course it’s a wide path.

 If you’re interested in these type books try Anne’s books from the Ice series or Ritual Sins. In case you don’t know and you’re interested, Jeff Lindsay writes the Dexter books.

Be careful when writing a character like Dexter or Bastian from Black Ice. It would be all too easy to antagonize your readers instead of enticing them to read more.

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About Writing On Wednesdays: What New Writers Want to Know

This Stellarcon panel about new writers consisted of Ed Schubert, Laurel Ann Hill and Tony Ruggiero.

There are no two ways about it; Laurel Ann Hill is an eccentric lady. At various panels she showed up with a big, fuzzy Russian hat on her head and at others she had dolls. The Russian hat I understood because that one room had temperatures colder than Siberia.

The various dolls weren’t props for her books. Maybe they were a type of security blanket? She wasn’t a big talker during the panels but she did enliven the room with just her presence.

The panel didn’t discuss the obvious like butt in seat, pen to paper. Instead they offered other tidbits for us to consider such as ways to look differently at our writing. 

One panelist, Ed Schubert, suggested putting your work away for a week or two. If possible for as long as a month or two. When you go back to it, it’s fresh.

Another way to keep your work fresh is to read your work out loud. This method allows you to view the story from another perspective. It also alerts you when a sentence is awkwardly phrased.

The panel agreed if you’re a serious writer then you must go to workshops. I’m not going to lie; it’s scary. The first one I ever went to was at Stellarcon. Intimidated to say the least, I was so out of my league it wasn’t funny.

The panel was comprised of professional editors, authors and publishers ready to critique the 100 words or so that we’d just wrote. Scary stuff but our privacy was taken very seriously, at least in the workshop I was in.

It was worth the mild panic attack when I had to read what I had just written off the top of my head because I walked away with a wealth of knowledge and a surprising bit of confidence.

Save your dollars because there’s only one problem with some workshops and that’s the expense. Well known writers charge out the rear for a workshop. We are talking at least $700 and higher for two or three days.

I don’t know about you but I can’t afford that right now. Some of them do offer videos that are cheaper and the cheapest of all would be the workshops offered at various cons. They are included with the cost of the con so you might want to check out what cons are held in your surrounding areas and see if they offer a workshop. 

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About Writing on Wednesdays: Can Science Steal the Story?

Ok. Let’s try this again. I accidentally trashed the first try. Sorry.

Tedd Roberts, Toni Weisskopf, Gray Rinehart and Christiana Ellis were on a great panel at Stellarcon called Science Vs Story.

Toni Weisskopf took over Baen Books as publisher after Jim Baen died. She is a hoot. She is in your face and says it how she believes it. I think it’s safe to say you will always know where you stand with her.

Now all through the weekend I heard a lot about information dump, don’t do it. The first thing that came out of Toni’s mouth was she is a fan of the info dump. In her words, “…give me the effing science. Be specific and get to the point.”

Gray Rinehart, her General Slushmaster, had just said in another panel not to info dump. He was sitting next to her as she said this and gave her the ‘are you kidding me’ look. I had to laugh because I’m sure they had a talk about that later.

A colorful, larger than life woman Toni was eff this and eff that for a while until she stopped and apologized. Editing and publishing induced “passionate” feelings in her, she said.

The panel touched very little on the science versus the story angle but I do like a well written sci-fi story, especially a good space opera. It’s important so we will talk about it.

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About Writing on Wednesdays: What’s Your Point of View?

Ok. There is a lot more to point of view (pov) than I realized and it took the pros at Stellarcon to point it out to me.  Ed Schubert, Laurell Ann Hill, David Coe and Gray Rinehart were the panelists for this discussion at Stellarcon.

David Coe spearheaded this panel and was able to point out the ways a writer can manipulate their story with different points of view. This was a very interesting and informative discussion.

As every writer should know the point of view is the eyes, ears, thoughts and emotions through which the reader sees the action of the story at any one given time in the story.

First person is what I call the “I” books. The story is told from one pov in the character’s voice. There was some discussion as to whether this is more intimate and conveys stronger emotion. I think it is and does.

In the book All Is Quiet on the Western Front the story is told through the narrator’s eyes and because it is I think the end is devastating in a way it would not have been otherwise.

David Coe gave his opinion that first person doesn’t work well in epic fantasy although it can be done.

Second person. ‘You’. It is rarely done and everyone agreed they did not like it. Yeah, I’m not sure how it could be done without sounding accusatory. The panelists did not have any examples of that. Does anyone else?

Third person. Personal pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ are used. Everyone agreed this pov adds tension to the story. It is the most used pov and the most popular.

Omniscient. Tells the story from the distance. There was general agreement that this pov is hard to do in today’s market. Readers want the writing to be up close and personal.

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About Writing on Wednesdays: Rules For Writers

Every writer has his or her own approach to writing but when we write the same basic rules apply to all of us. Most rules are inviolate, some are more like guidelines while other rules are made to be broken.

As writer’s we want to use our voice to create characters and worlds that has readers coming back for more.  Whether we break or bend the rules or not we are manipulating them to create our own unique voice.

The trick is to know which is what. Got that? The first rule before breaking the rules is to know the rules. You have to know what you’re doing and why before you decide not to do it.

The Ten Rules About Writing panel was hosted by Amy Sturgis, Faith Hunter and Allen Wold at Stellarcon.  They had a lot more than ten and I added to their list. The distinction between rules that can not be broken or bent and the ones that can are my own.

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For Writers on Wednesdays: Making Sausage

What does making sausages have to do with writing? A lot more than you would think. Confused? Trust me by the end of this discussion you’ll understand.

Making sausages was the name of the panel consisting of Allen Wold, Theresa Bane, Barbara Friend Ish, and Debra Killen at Stellarcon. The title confused me so I nearly missed this fascinating discussion until I read the description. As it was I did come in late but not so late I missed too much.

For the last several months the writing world has been in an uproar over ebooks and their sudden surge in popularity. Many believed the time for ebooks had not arrived but they were wrong. Now the world of writers and publishing is in a state of flux where no one knows how it will end. 

Every writer and their blog has at least one discussion about indie versus traditional publishing. Should you or shouldn’t you? A question that may never be answered to some’s satisfaction. The panel I attended wasn’t about this highly volatile subject but something as important. The benefits of small publishing versus big publishing.

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Curio’s Past, Shhh.