J. R. R. Tolkien: Evoking Secondary Belief

I love ‘ah-ha’! moments especially when I find an explanation for something I’ve been trying to explain for years. In this case, the reason I write the stories I write has been answered by someone who also writes fantasy novels: J. R. R. Tolkien.

While I do not write in the same style of Tolkien, our goal is the same: to tell a story that evokes Secondary Belief (a belief up until yesterday, I had not heard about).

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Writing Characters Who are Consistent in Actions

A book I finished reading a few days ago has stayed on my mind; I can’t shake it. Not because it was a great story. It was an okay story. I’d rate it 3 of 5 stars. I seldom rate anything 5, so 4 is what I rate a book I really enjoyed reading.

The book is not stuck in my mind because it contained a life-changing message. It’s not because it made me think of the world from a different perspective.

The reason I can’t shake the book from my thoughts and why I can’t help but analyse characters in my novels is because of character consistency. I can accept a lot of twists, but my mind is tripping over the main character, let’s call her Jill, in this story. Here’s a brief description.

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Chemistry Between Characters

I was reading reviews last week for a book on Amazon. One of the main complaints by readers was there was no chemistry between the main characters who met and fell in love in the novel.

That got me thinking about my characters. Is there chemistry between them, particularly those in love? I didn’t take chemistry in high school, so it’s a subject I know little about. However, I did take years of physics, biology and astronomy, so I understand the law of attraction, friction, biological similarities, procreation and out of this world relationships.

When it comes to chemistry, I feel lost, unable to say if my characters have it because I am so close to them and I can’t define it. I can see chemistry between actors. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have great chemistry in the Thor movies. But what does that mean exactly? They have a come back for every line the other says? They work well together? They play off their shared past experiences?

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What is Your Character’s Favourite Food?

Biscuits and Cranberry Jam
Homemade cranberry jam on my homemade biscuits.

I read an article last week about character flaws and quirks. Every one should have them unless it’s a nameless character there for one line.

This got me thinking about my characters and their quirks. I love quirks because we all have them, and they make us unique. My characters also have their favourite unique food they like that might not be liked by the average individual. I think everyone has this, too, so it goes well in a story.

I love cranberries, and I’ve eaten cranberry sandwiches for as long as I can remember. All through school—all 13 years—I’ve eaten these sandwiches for lunch. While many classmates in high school bought their lunch at the cafeteria, I brought a bagged lunch with, you guessed it, cranberry sandwiches. It was my thing. When I started working, the main item in my lunch was that sandwich. (PS: I’ve never had a urinary tract infection.)

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Tip for Choosing Character Names

Thought for the dayWhen I started reading fantasy novels in my teen years back in the 1980s, I struggled with the pronunciation of some of the far-out names authors had given their characters. To get through these stories, I turned names such as Gorggegx in George in my mind and kept reading.

Why fantasy authors feel the need to create strange names always confused me. It came off as part of the genre, I think. When I started writing fantasy stories, I thought about using similar names, but I quickly put it to rest and stuck with names I could pronounce.

Since then, I’ve encountered many odd names in the genre, and I continue to do the same thing: turn them into simple names.

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Writing Male Characters in Romance Novels

REblog“Dominated by women, as both readers and writers, romance still needs strong male characters. So how do you write male characters for romance novels? Author Richard (RJ) Gould, explains.

When it comes to the genre of romance, women dominate. Most romance writers are female, most readers are female, and plots predominantly centre on the female point of view. At this early stage, I should point out that I‘m a male author who writes romance fiction. I’m not unique, but I am a rarity. My publisher, Accent Press, badges my novels as contemporary women’s fiction and several literary agents have suggested I use a female pseudonym. Adopting ‘RJ’ as opposed to Richard is my cowardly compromise. At Romantic Novelists’ Association events, including the annual conferences with up to 200 participants, over 95 percent are women and several of the few males write under a female alias.”

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Character Sheets

Know your charactersIn a recent blog post, I discussed the importance of Style Sheets. Another form sheet equally important is the character sheet. Even if a story has only a handful of characters, a detailed list will help keep them in line and their hair colour from changing from chapter to chapter.

A character sheet is a life saver if a novel contains many characters or is one in a series. During the first edit of Shadows in the Stone, I created one to save my sanity. The story contains 74 named characters. Some of these individuals were mentioned only two or three times, but it was important to keep their individual stories straight, along with their age and the weapons of their choice.

What to put on a character sheet is up to the writer. Personally, I use the following headings.

Name

The full name of the character is written in the first column along with nicknames, ranks, titles and keys to pronunciation (if it is an unusual name). With regard to nicknames, I add a note about who uses them.

For example, we may know a character as Chris, but his mother might still call him Christopher while his best friend calls him Shortie.

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