“A character’s neighborhood provides the opportunity to tell us about him/her without narrative. People live where they’re comfortable, so how you describe the protagonist or antagonist’s home town will reflect his values, beliefs, passions.
My heart leapt, and I spun around to see Harry Graham walking towards me.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” The tall man who always reminded me of Lorne Greene—except I admired the actor—smiled down at me with his corn-on-the-cob-shaped teeth. He appeared ready to dine at a fine restaurant, not tend to cows. Although I didn’t genuinely like the man’s business tactics, he was still a person respected in the community, one who had never said a mean word to me. He was just a jerk, like the guy who doesn’t show up for a date and later says he ran into a buddy and they went fishing, and expects another date just because he really didn’t do anything wrong.
Bronwyn Darrow is one of the main characters in Shadows in the Stone. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to him. This interview takes place in the same time frame as the opening scene of the fantasy novel. It provides a peek into Bronwyn’s world before the action gets underway.
Diane: Welcome to my farm, Bronwyn. I hope you don’t mind sitting here in the barn to talk; I don’t want to miss this beautiful day.
Bronwyn: No, I don’t mind. I love being outside. (pulls up a hay bale, sits and leans against a stall gate)
Diane (grabs her own hay bale, plops it against the opposite side of the six-foot aisle running through the barn and sits): Great because I also love the smell of this place.
Bronwyn (grins): Me, too. I love being around horses. It makes me feel free. (tosses his chin toward the pasture where our pony grazes beside the miniature donkey). What breed is that? I don’t think we have that type in Ath-o’Lea.
Diane: It’s a Haflinger.
Bronwyn: He’s a stalky creature. Gelding?
Diane: Yup, about five years old. The breeds supposed to be sure-footed, great for mountain trails.
Bronwyn (flashes his dark brown eyes at me): Can I ride ‘em when we’re done?
Diane: Sure, as long as you don’t take him on the road. He’s not wearing shoes.
Bronwyn (his face lights up): Promise, I won’t. He looks like he loves to run.
Diane: Do you ride a lot in your position at Aruam Castle?
Bronwyn: I do. Learning to ride well is part of a soldier’s training. We spend at least two hours a day working with horses.
Diane: How long have you been serving the castle?
Bronwyn: I’ve been a soldier in the reserve for about two years.
Diane: So you’re not a castle guard? (He shakes his head). What’s the difference?
Bronwyn: The soldiers are a reserve for the castle guard. When a guard retires, dies or is injured to the point he can’t fulfil his duties, his position is filled by a soldier. This means the castle guard is always working at full capacity with well-trained men.
Diane: What duties do you perform as a soldier?
Characters are the essence in a story as corned beef is the heart in Jiggs Dinner. But just like the beef, characters can have no flavour and instead of enticing you to eat read more, you pass on seconds put the book down.
Like corned beef, good characters take time to create. I’ve cured my characters in Shadows of the Stone for several years. Now, they’re almost read to be served (think May 6th). I love my characters, the good, the bad and the ugly. None of them are perfect because perfect characters are boring. Even The Good Guys Must Be Flawed. You can read my thoughts about this in a guest post at Thea Atkinson’s blog.
Gipsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark. Attributed to the Claddaugh Gypsies of Galway.
When I went searching for the perfect horse breed for my fantasy novel, Shadows in the Stone, there were several characteristics I desired.
From my Stats Page, I’m told that on average one person a day has viewed my blog titled Using Images to Capture a Character since it was posted February 21, 2011. When it comes to blog post popularity, this one is fourth out of 68.
Why has this particular blog generated so much interest? Is it because it’s the best I’ve written? Nope. Is it because it discusses a unique topic? Nope.
You’ve heard the old expression, To really know someone, you must walk in their shoes.
This expression reminds us to not judge people before we get to know them and to not assume we know what they’re thinking and feeling. This expression holds true for the people in our life as well as the characters in our stories.
Writing about someone without knowing them first makes them flat, uninteresting and possible unreliable. When I begin a new story with new characters, I often stumble my way along, wondering if my character will go this way or that. If they are faced with a challenge, what will they do? Turn and run? Or stand and fight?
Names. Our characters need them, but where do we find them? I’ve searched dozens of sources looking for perfect names, ones readers will remember easily and relate with. Often times I do find unique ones that suit the characters, but not always.
Sometimes my adult brain gets in the way of finding a great name. Perhaps I should start letting my kids pick them. They seem to have a knack for discovering the perfect name that describes a character, is unique and memorable. Their names – which are mostly gender neutral – for their pets stand out and make visitors smile.
I get it! I really get it! For 25 years, I’ve struggled with point of view. At times I thought I had it mastered only to later realise I didn’t know as much as I thought I had. Now, after reading Gabriela Pereira’s blog post on Do-it-yourself Degree in Creative Writing, I finally get it.
Last Point of View Cheat Sheet You’ll Ever Need provides a blow by blow explanation of POV. If you’ve ever questioned your POV, I recommend printing the post and the Cheat Sheet for future reference. From my experience, these lessons need to be reread now and again to refresh the brain. It’s like they get dusty or get mouldy and need cleaning to be remembered.
I was a thirteen-year-old kid, racing after my friends through the lounge of our Girls and Boys Club when pixies first sprinkled magic dust of Dungeons & Dragons in my hair. It wasn’t my first glimpse into the lives of elves, dwarfs and halflings, but it was the first time an entire world was exposed. Until then I had thought these creatures lived amongst us, hiding in the shadows of the forest, deep in forgotten caves and in rock structures invisible to the human eye.
I started a lot of fires while growing up. With a woodstove in the kitchen for cooking and for heat, lighting a fire came natural to me. I lit fires in the backyard, at campsites and in the woods when we weren’t supposed to. I had my fingers burned a few times, witnessed someone almost start a major forest fire and saw the results of holding a lighter over a discarded vehicle gasoline tank to see if it held gas (but I won’t mention any names, big brother). I learned my lessons by doing and by watching others.
I don’t usually post on Wednesdays, but today, I’m making an exception. Christi Corbett has generously asked me to guest host her blog for a day.
I opened my inbox this morning and found an interesting blog post by Christi Corbett. She had written about pictures that inspired her, got her into the mindset of her characters and set the scene. She asked, “How about you?” Do you use images for writing inspiration?
My answer was a loud, “Yes!”
I’m a very visual person. When I’m writing dialogue, I can picture in my mind the character, what he/she’s wearing, their dialect, stance and hand motions. I know when an eye brow goes up or a lip is curled. My characters scratch their heads and their butts and put their hands in their pockets.
I often sketch my characters to better see their faces. Sometimes, I stumble upon an image that cries out, “I’m Anna!” I snatch it, print it and stare at it when I’m writing.
For example, last year, while googling my name to see where it appeared on the Internet, I came upon a page
containing a black and white image. The intense stare spoke to me. It said, “Hello there. I’m Tam. It’s been a hard day at the castle. My brother’s being a wingnut again, the lords are asking for tighter security and the plumbing is backed up in the guard house. I just need a cold one to relax.”
I saved the photo to my hard drive, naming it ‘Tam Mulryan’.
Searching the page further, I discovered it was Gerard Butler’s face I had stolen. But why was my name on the same web page as his? Oh, I had written a review of Nym’s Island several years ago and he was one of the stars. Little did I know that little review would link me with the photo I’d use to identify with one of my characters.
I googled Gerard Butler’s name to see if I could find Tam in another setting. Jackpot! Butler had starred in Timeline, a movie in which the characters travelled back in time to the age of sword fighting and castles. I found Tam in rugged
clothing with longer hair and a thicker beard. Almost perfect.
While living at the castle, Tam was clean cut with a short beard, but while hiding out on the trail, he’d become a little rough around the edges with longer, shaggier hair. The intense stare in this new photograph was perfect for Tam. He thought more than he spoke.
Printed and posted on the wall behind my computer, this photograph of Tam keeps an eye on my writing, making sure I write him true to character. Whenever I need inspiration for him, I just stare into his eyes and he lets me know what I must do.