Character Sketch: The Independent (Ryn)

Authors Note: My character is NOT based on Ginger Howard–my character is African American, female, and wears a “baseball cap.”  That is the ONLY similarity to the above image (still, I thought it would be cool to highlight Ginger Howard’s accomplishments!)

So, today I finished the character sketch for my 2nd Draft of my short story, The Independent.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but I do want to tell a little bit about the process.  I’m trying to create a character that resembles a real life person (who is larger than life).

Family Heirlooms

One of the things that I decided was that I wanted to make sure that I did was to give Ryn a “history.”  I’ve tried to do that by creating a link between her and the past generations of her family by giving her a family heirloom that she uses in the story that gives her  an emotional hook to both her past and her present.  I’ve done that by giving her a “baseball cap” that is her father’s and is really important to her and her father.

Space Story grounded in “Reality”

In Star Wars, Mark Hamill is said to have been concerned about the unreality of the story, but Alec Guinness was supposed to have helped him by reminding him that even in fantasy, their has to be a link to reality.  That’s one of things that I tried to do with this character sketch by making sure that I gave Ryn a true “reality.”  I hope that it is a not a trite reality, but I wanted to try to create something that is more “realistic” than what I normally write.

One Surprising Thing

One thing that surprised me as I was doing this character sketch was the background section.  The background for Ryn came together in a surprising way and I was surprised that I came up with this particular background for her.  I don’t know that it will stick (ie that I will keep it or use it for the story), but I really think that it us both unique and quite strange (for me).

Anyway, I found that Ryn was a great character to come up with a Character Sketch for my 1st (well, 2nd time) out in a while.  I intend to make this step something that I do for my 2nd drafts and hopefully this will making my stories better.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

Advertisements

1st Try

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)

Inhabiting Characters

character-poster-elements-of-literature-round-flat-characterization

PowerPoint Slide showing various types of characters and topics in characterization. Image Source: The Cutest Blog on the Block (http://beccab8.blogspot.com/2015/06/characters.html)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Revision Month (i.e., “2nd Draft” Central)
    Trying to figure this month out as I was sick and exhausted yesterday, so I worked on the rough draft of a new project, “Project Captain.” At home, I have two 1st Drafts I’d like to work on, “Project Dog,” and “Project Paradise”, in addition to three 2nd Drafts I’d like to focus on “Whale Song”, “Project Sky,” and “The Independent.” I have to decide how I’m going to proceed as there’s no way that I’m going to be able to get through all of those in one month.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Librarians Lead the Way

So, on the first Saturday of the month, I stopped off at the Chattanooga Public Library to talk to some of the librarians who I once worked with for a few moments. I happened to talk with another librarian who also writes fiction and I was reminded about why I write and the importance of character in stories.

Swapping Stories

When I dropped off my Graphic Novel script, she happened to mention a story that she was working on that, while not genre (Fantasy/Sci-Fi), was still quite intriguing and would be something that I’m sure readers will enjoy when she writes it and gets it published.  However, I was struck by her focus on characters and characterization.  Even at the idea stage, she was really focused on how characters acted in the story, their motivations behind their actions, and the interactions between the characters. This blew my mind! And, I made sure that I told her so–her conceptions of characters and characterizations at the planning stage were light-years beyond what I seem to be able to do, so I learned from her and I’m really going to double down on characters and characterization from now on.

Developing Characters

One of the things that my librarian friend was really good at was drawing characteristics and traits from real life people and then applying them to her characters in a way that made sense for her story. She is really good at figuring out the motivations for what people do and the history involved in their lives and then applying that to highlighting what she needs to for the plot. For the rest of this year, this going to be something that I practice–looking at people in real-life and seeing if I can figure out a possible history for them and motivations of the traits that I see them exhibit. I used to be fairly good at that, but I don’t think I really applied them to characters. So, you’ll probably see lots of posts on characterization as I try to improve and get better at it.

Have a great day!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

Characters–Now with Faces

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 12
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 5 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Draft for the next 5 pages on Fridays/Over the Weekend.
Actual = 1/5 Pages done.  The writing process went fairly smoothly and I completed the page before going to bed.  It wasn’t particularly hard or easy, but just a basic drafting session.  Four more to go.

  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Here is a summary from Amazon: “In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.”
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Scrivener’s Character Sketch Feature

So, I’ve known about Scrivener’s Character Sketch Template for a while now.  I’ve actually used it to great effect.  I did a character sketch for Scryfe and Kelfryn years ago and it is (to date) still the only story I’ve ever sold on the first try.  However, I’ve recently discovered a way that other writers are using the template that never occurred to me and I think that it is pretty useful, so I thought I’d share.

Drag and Drop Characters

Scrivener, like many pieces of Mac software, allows you to basically drag and drop images from your computer or the web into the program with just the click of the mouse (or touchpad these days).  While I’ve done that and used the feature for the “Notes” section to help me visualizing places that I wanted to describe in my fiction, I’ve recently seen other writers dragging in images for their characters.  They are sort of “casting” their stories much like a director/casting agent “casts” their movies.  I think this is “aces” (slang for “a bloody brilliant idea”)!  I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t think of that–sure, you might not find that perfect image that is a one-to-one match for the character in your mind, an image that is close would definitely help the writing process.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

The only potential problem that I see with this is that if you get your work published, you should find someway to acknowledge the art/photo that helped get you there (if at all possible), especially if it was an artist’s sketch.  That’s why, whenever I use an artist’s image in the cover image for a post, I always try to credit the artist’s name and promote their website in that blog post.  I don’t promote artists as much as I probably could (i.e., use more artwork from artists) because I know what its like to produce your work, but not paid for it.  I’d like to showcase it, but I’m not a gallery and don’t have the resources (aka funds) to license work for extended periods of time, which is why I do it sparingly.  However, as a member of communities like Deviant Art , I can tell that there are some AMAZING artists out there that I would LOVE to work with at some point.  Here is a Pinterst post to prove my point (click to see more images).

So, writers out there.  If your story gets used/picked up by a publisher, how about throwing a few dollars back to the talented artists and photographers that helped to inspire your work by, perhaps, buying some of their work as well?  We may not all be doing the same type of creation, but at the end of the day, we’re all creators together.  Let’s help each other out, shall we?

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

A “Big Dog” Barks

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @3700 words (+0 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 168 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Dead tired after that insane 15 hour day.  0 words written last night.  Hopefully, I can do better tonight.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through .)
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.

    Still working my way through–I’m trying to clear out a province a week, but because I’m catching up from E3 so I only got to clear about ½ of the province I’m currently working on.  I was planning on finishing that province today, but I have far too much to do today, so I’m not going to get to play it next week.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.” I got further along, but now I have a decision to make: do I let the “creepy” best friend die, or do I let the character’s potential girlfriend die.  I decided to stop right there.

Creating a Character

Last week (at least, I think it was last week) I talked a little about the development of a new short story that I’m working on: Project Dog.  Well, I’ve had the plot (events) of the story in my head now for a while (over 2 years).  I’ve written a plot outline for the story (I’ve mapped out what happens from beginning to end), but when I started to write the story, I found that it fell apart after the first few paragraphs.  I created two characters: Etienne and Genevieve, who are Canadian (as the story ostensible takes place in Canada).  However, I’m not Canadian.  I’ve only known one Canadian in my life (from a Creative Writing class, no less), and I only knew him for the one semester, so already I was ignoring a cardinal rule of fiction: write what you know.  So I’m going back to basics and I’m working on a conception of a new set of characters based on characters/people who I do know.

James “Big Dog” Robinson

Just so you know, “James Robinson” is likely a placeholder name.  The nickname “Big Dog” is actually the only thing that is definite.  This character is definitely an African American male (or this universe’s version of it as America, Canada, Mexico, and Central America are no longer individual countries).  As the setting is the future, borders have shifted and James is a product of his world.  I’m working now on creating 1) his backstory–how did he get to the “Canada” environment from the “deep south” environment where he grew up (I think I have an answer for this) and 2) his inner and outer conflicts (I believe I have his outer conflict, but I’m looking for a realistic inner conflict for him).  He is a squad leader, the leader of the “Dog Pack,” a futuristic group (sorry for being so vague here, but I don’t want to give away the mystery of the story.”

Inner vs Outer Conflict

So, I’m sort of obsessing over this element of the character (even more than a simple description of character or completely knowing his history).  Dragonhawk is the ONLY story that I’ve ever had accepted on the first try.  It is ALSO the ONLY story I’ve ever done a true “character sketch” for (Description, History/Bio, Inner vs Outer Conflict).  Being reflective about my writing, I think I’m non being successful in completing stories because of 1) lack of character development (esp. early in the project at the planning stage) and 2) lack of going through the “drafting” process (essentially only doing one or two “drafts” before moving on to the editing/submission process–not dramatizing the story enough/using enough techniques.

Hopefully, this will allow me to be a better “writer” and a better “storyteller.”  Fingers crossed.  Have a great weekend.  🙂

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.