Character interview

So I think that there are a dozen “character development” sheets available on the web. As writers we all have them. We all look for new ways to put the characters together and not end up with crap.

The best way I know of is to decide what your story is about. The core of it. Then you “interview ” your character. Ask questions based upon the plot. You should already know the basic stuff. You need to ask about why they are in your story. What is their role? What does the story mean to them? How does the course of the story affect them? While yes you can look into the character, learning about their favorite music, books, and such… Unless you know the reason why they are in your story it will be fluff and not help you write.

You should understand how they are interacting within the story. With other characters, with the environment, and then with themselves. Is the character self-destructive? Why? You should always know the why of any behavior you give the character. The basic psychology behind their behavior.

Now that sounds scary… I know. Still cause and effect gives you a lot of details. And while the reader may not always see what caused the character to behave like they are, you should.

So I will give you an example. In Serena’s Rust, Gore, and the Junkyard Zombie… Chris is the sort to try to do everything by himself, and tries to be seen as an upstanding citizen. Now we do learn why in the story if we pay attention. His father was the town drunk and his mother raised him and his sisters by herself. Chris grew up basically as the man of his house and bullied by townsfolk because of his father. People who have that background can show it in multiple ways. Chris showed that he could be better than his father, but did not trust others to help him.

So what is the why for your character? And how does it fit in your story?

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Tuesday tea party

I think that I am in a chatty mood. Tea parties are for chatting, right? Today I want to talk hobbies. What are some of yours, and do you think that a person can have too many? I honestly pick up a new one each year. I have writing, which is no longer a hobby but more of an occupation now. I have drawing and digital art. I have painting, both acrylic and recently obtained water colors. (I am still not certain how I feel about water colors). I have jewelry design and crafting. (I make some really adorable earrings.) I have resin crafting. I crochet, though badly. I am about to add bath bomb making as well. (It was my daughter’s birthday request. She wants to have a craft we can do together and she is interested in bath bombs.) Of course I have reading, but I really don’t see that as a hobby. I have gaming, both video games and tabletop. I run a biweekly game in D20 style. I have been running games since third edition D&D came out. Currently I run a mish mash of pathfinder and 3.5. I looked into fourth edition and yeah… It’s not for me. I have been looking at fifth. I’m not really impressed. I would love to hear your opinion.

I have been considering adding soap and candlemaking to my activities. I think it would be fun. I took a class 20 years ago in candlemaking. The teacher made it over complex. I remember that I enjoyed it though. I think that the new melt and pour soap bases and the inexpensive soy wax options make both activities easier for me to access. Now I just need to convince my boyfriend that I don’t have too many hobbies… Hmm he may be right though. What is your opinion? Is it possible to do too many crafts? I really want you to tell me about your hobbies, where is your passions?

Wednesday thoughts

Ever wonder what makes you unique? Is it your environment, your choices? The combined experience? Here lately I’ve been questioning whether I was as unique as I used to think. In high school it was my thing… I was unique and no one could tell me different. Well high school was nearly 30 years ago. In that time I have been taught lessons from life that made the lines blur.

I have met others who have similar stories to mine. Often ones who I see as stronger than I am. I often see myself as weak. Survival doesn’t mean that you are strong, at least not always. Some times survival is just doing what you have always done.

Yeah, my thoughts are fragments. But it still is a legitimate question, what makes you unique? What about you is different than the next guy?

Oh btw this is research on character development for me… So please do give me your thoughts.

More Character development

So last week we talked about the basic knowledge that we need for each character. This week… I only have one question… What makes the character unique? This is both the hardest and simplest question that you will answer. Everything else is details and may never be used.

This touches on your original story idea. Why did you choose the character to start with? Where does this character fit in that idea? Knowing this allows you to focus on why the character is unique. You need to know why each of your characters are unique. If you read a story and it has cardboard cutout characters you will be less likely to enjoy the read! So to write characters that the reader will want to read, you need to find their uniqueness.

So what is their reason in your story? This can be something as simple as supporting or slowing the main character or they are the main character. You don’t have to be complicated in how you design the characters.

Once you have this information you are more ready to dive in. And mind you that not all characters need more information than just this. Some minor players just need a purpose.

Next time I will be covering hero/heroine deeper in depth. Hopefully by the time I am done you will be able to write characters that you would want to read.

Friday World Building

Language — Does your world have different languages? How did they evolve? Does each race have a different language or is it regional? Is there laws that are broken by speaking the wrong language?

Origin Tales — How did the world came to be? Is there a myths about the world’s origin that is disputed between societies? Is it seen as a religion?

Jobs/professions — What kind do people have? Do men and women divide work, share it? What kind of training do your characters receive, if any? How are they trained and by whom?

Gender roles – What are people’s attitudes about gender roles? And does it differ between species? How?

Clothing/Costumes — How do people dress? What do your characters wear and why? Where does fabric come from? Who makes it?

Weather — Does your place have four seasons? How is this expressed and does it affect your story?

Food — How it’s planted/harvested/hunted/gathered? What do people eat and when? How it’s cooked? Who cooks? What’s poisonous? And does it differ from species to species?

Animals – Are there any special or magical animals in your world? Are there any who are unique to your world? Any race hold an animal sacred? Is there animal sacrifice in your world?

Politics/Power – Who is in power and why? How is power transferred to the next generation? What people do or don’t do to get close to powerful people?

I really hope that this series has been helpful. Please feel free to comment your answers and discuss your world with me.

Friday World building

       Today the world building topics are Religion and Time. These are both the most important and the least important for any world.

     This world has multiple religions. Each religion has a different view of the divine. Religions shape morals and virtues, and how the inhabitants view themselves. Morals are a strange thing. People aren’t born with an innate knowledge of what to do inlife, or how to act. It only makes sense, then, that people would turn to religion as a guide for how they should behave. That’s easy enough to see with the world we live in. Nearly everybody learns the golden rule growing up. Nearly  every religion has this same rule, in some form or another. When you get further into the details of differing religions, you see that each has its own set of morals and what it feels is “right.” This can range from Evangelicals who feel that same-sex love is a sin because of an archaic passage from the old testament to vegetarianism as a way to avoid hurting other living creatures,commonly found among Hindus. So, what does this mean?

        Well, this  means that when you’re crafting a religion, one of the things to think about is what morals you want in your world. What do you want the gods to stand for? Do you want to have a full pantheon to cover all of the aspects that one can find in the divine? Are there different gods for each race? Different taboos are often religion-centric as well. These taboos can have minor consequences on your world-building in some ways. For example, maybe you just want to make things more interesting by adding details such as characters who avoid certain kinds of metals or stones because they’re strictly forbidden in their religious texts. These taboos can also have major consequences on your story. For example, even in the modern day and age there are a lot of prejudices against albinism in some African countries. You can imagine the consequences for such a character.

       When crafting a religion, it only makes sense to think about the cultural impact said religion will have. Holidays, prayer, rituals, religious pilgrimages, the way that people keep track of time (as in our AD system), taboos, fasting, celibacy, religious bathing/cleansing… These are just a few practices that exist within different religions. Many are so ingrained in our culture that people don’t even think of them as “religious” any more.  Also remember that the same religion can have many different interpretations, leading to different branches and sects. They can be quite different, and they may not get along that well. This is another thing that is often forgotten. Throughout history there have been many different types of religions. Some have a single god. Some have an entire pantheon. Some see gods as people. Some see gods as animals. Some gods are both people and animals, depending on the story that’s being told. Some religions see gods as having no form. Some religions teach that god is the universe. Some say that there are no gods, but there is power in everything.

   Is your main religion science or a lack of religion? Why is this so? Religion is sometimes a bit of background knowledge. It may never come into your story, or it might be the focus. Still it is something you should know.

Time

  Look at your calendar, Is the way your world laid out similar to ours? Our world is on a 24-hour day.  We have a 7-day week and a usually 30-31-day month. There are worlds with 20-hour days, or 48-hour days. There are worlds with tenday weeks. Time controls everything we do. Often the time is controlled by sun and moon rotation, but you could have a world that had a magical accident. Your world has flexibility. Though this information can help your story to form.

Economics and magic : a lesson in world building

Ok. Back to the background work for writing. Here’s some ideas for questions you should be asking in your worl building.

Economics

It’s not just a “money” thing. Though money is a part of it. Economics is all about how things move in a society – where certain things come from, who produces or crafts those things, and – most importantly for worldbuilding – how the people in a community are affected by that system. The biggest thing to consider is what “wealth” means in the world you’ve created. First and foremost, where does most wealth come from? Does your world use money? Gems? Bottle caps? Credits? Barter? This affects how people see their labor, their belongings, even themselves.

In most societies, economics are centered on two basic principles.

The first is surplus. Having a surplus means having more than is needed of something.

The other is scarcity. You can guess what this is. The more scarce something is (i.e. the less of something there is) the more valuable it becomes.

The more food that is available, the less difficult it becomes to acquire food. It can be freely traded, whether for other items/services of equal value or for money (or whatever symbolic exchange product a society uses, like “credits” in a sci-fi world). If there’s not a lot of food to go around, it becomes more difficult to acquire food. The person who has a lot of a needed thing holds power over those who don’t have that thing.

The system of money also affects how certain things are seen. Items used for making the currency can be seen as valuable to the shady, as they will use it to forge fake currency.

Magic

How does the magic work? Do you need ingredients to cast a spell or just a word? Are there more difficult rituals that must take a longer time to perform? Is there more than one sort of magic? (I.e. Arcane, Divine {or godly}, shaman, Druidic, Demonic)

What are the limits for your magic? How many spells can you use before you’re “empty”? (Make sure you take into account the difference of using many simple spells up to more than one difficult spell.)

How does one gain magic power? Do they gain it from a higher power, by reading and learning from books, from genetics, or some other way?

How does the people react? Is magic widely accepted and available? Or is it a shamed/secretive thing? Is it legal? Or would those who have it need to hide their power?

Are there forbidden spells or forbidden paths of magic? Some good examples of what is usually seen as a forbidden path or magic are necromancy, demonic, and blood magic. How are the users punished, if at all?

For the higher level spells, why are they more difficult? What about them makes them more difficult? The amount of magical power or prowess needed? The necessary ingredients? The time period needed to cast the spell?

Tell me about the economy and magic in your world! What is scarce? What is so common that the characters don’t even think about it? How rich is the magic in your world?