WRITE OUR AGE: CHARACTERS WHO BREATHE

We all know the struggle of coming up with a name for a character, but what comes after that? 

Next to crafting a plot, I believe that the art of creating a realistic character is one of the hardest things to master as a writer. However, hopefully this post will lend a hand to any struggling writers out there agonising over personality traits, family backgrounds and character motivations.

First of all, although writing, to some people, is separate from reality, many writers tend to base their characters on someone they know in real life. For instance Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play: ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ was influenced by Williams’ sister, Rose Williams. She also inspired the character of Laura Wingfield in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’

In doing this, the writer produces a character who is, even at the drafting stage, more three dimensional. This technique gives the writer a foundation to work on and then perhaps adapt later in the writing process. Basing a character on a real person gives you the chance to notice the details that create a realistic character. You’re more likely to notice and include unique habits, such as whether fidget, what their body language is like when they’re lying and how they react to stress. All this is fundamental to helping you construct a convincing protagonist and identifying what it is that makes them tick.

After you have the basis for a character, it’s time to start hammering the heated metal block into shape. It’s time to start laying down the internal structure of the character, giving them depth and personality.

The way I like to do this is carry out a series of interviews with the character, either through role play (otherwise known as talking to myself) or a written journalistic style interview.

Here’s a brief step by step guide for how to go about doing this, however please note that this is YOUR interview, you get to do what you like and shouldn’t feel the need to be restricted by this simple guide!

  1. Choose a setting. Where are you meeting this person? In a bar? In their apartment? In Central Park South? Think carefully about where you are likely to meet your character and take a moment to imagine the surroundings, what they might be wearing and what they’re doing.
  2. Begin your ‘interview.’ It’s time to approach your character, or perhaps they’ll be the one to initiate the conversation, if they happen to be that sort of person. They might even ignore you, but either way begin your relationship with this character and start to find out all about them.
  3. Carry the conversation. Ask your character questions, as you would when you meet someone for the first time. What are they doing here? What are they called? What would they recommend on the menu? Here is where you begin to shape their thought patterns and general characteristics. Think about how they sit as they talk, if they tap their fingers, if they even pay much attention to you.
  4. Make notes once you’ve had a little chat, make a note of things that worked and ignore the excess that didn’t.
  5. Repeat It takes time to get to know someone, so repeat this process as often as you like, whenever you like. If you happen to be out and find yourself in a place that reminds you of your character, place them there and observe.

I hope this general guide will help any writers out there to build a character and develop their own techniques and skills to add to their toolkit.

 

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WRITE OUR AGE: RUTS AND INSPIRATION

I’m not the kind of person who can write their way out of writer’s block by aimlessly typing shapeless rubbish into a Word Doc until inspiration hits.

I’ve always stood by the theory that editing something, no matter how awful, is better than having nothing to edit. Although, writing content that you know to be bad, even as a draft, can be dispiriting and physically painful.

On a good day, my head is brimming with words that fit well together and lines of poetry that have distinct rhythms and messages. At times like these, I find my notes app full of bits and pieces of writing that have the potential to become entire poems or prompts for short stories. This is great, I’m sure you’ll agree, we all feel incredible when this is the case.

However, there are always dry spells, times when nothing we write seems to sound even remotely interesting, our poetry falls flat on it’s face and our scripts are dull. For me, times like these are incredibly frustrating, but I’ve found that, like an illness, the pain can be alleviated in several different ways.

We all write under different circumstances, but there are some common denominators. I often find that I write best after reading work that that sparks interest.

The poetry I currently write is heavily influenced by the work of the Beats and the New York School of Poets. If I look back on a time-line, I see time when my work was particularly influenced by Auden and Eliot.

Some phases pass, but many stick and become an amalgamation of your influences. The writers who you admire and emulate are often the ones that succeed in replenishing your flow. So when I’m short of ideas, I’ll flick through Birthday Letters, or Lunch Poems to recharge my battery.

Additionally, quotes can also be incredibly helpful, whether it’s quotes about writing, or quotes on certain subjects and themes, I feel that they are a quick fix to help sustain your writing. You may have a collection of favourite quotes that you can assemble into an accessible collection and come back to when you’re stuck in a rut.

I think non-fiction writer have less trouble with this next issue, but poets and screenwriters and novelists, I hope you can relate.

Occasionally, I feel like a fraud because I’m have no idea what I’m writing about and that is detrimental to my mentality. I become stuck in a stuttering cycle of writing and stopping and considering, until I run out of juice.

In my opinion, one of the best solutions to this problem is to defraud yourself. Writing about hiking? Find a mountain to summit, pack your own bag, experience the tumultuous weather, then transfer this experience to your work with the reassurance and support of your genuine experience.

Secondly, I think it is equally, if not more important, to remember this one truth: YOU ARE A WRITER. You are a creator of worlds and people that would not exist if it wasn’t for you! You are a creator of fiction and fantasy and infinite circumstances. It’s important not to doubt your own rules, because YOU MAKE THE RULES. Sure, you may have to sit down and untangle messy plots and patch up holes, but in the end, you have the final say.

Thanks for reading this post and leave your thoughts below, how do you fight writer’s block, what advice do you have and do you agree with what I said?

ALSO, if anyone would like to request a specific topic for the next WRITE OUR AGE, I’d be happy to take requests in the comments. I’d love to hear what you guys would like to see.

SHARE this post on Facebook or Twitter with anyone you think would like to read it and give us a LIKE if you want!

Until next time,

Viv

WRITE OUR AGE: SELF-DOUBT

If you’re a writer like me, I think the title of this post really speaks for itself. A few days ago, I posted a picture of a blog post in the drafting process on this website’s Instagram (@thereis_nowhy- if you want to follow.) Since then, that post has been drafted and re-drafted and now, is completely dismissed. I may revisit the idea another time, but for now, it’s moot.

I’ve discarded entire collections of poetry, short stories and countless blog posts in the name of self-doubt. I am duly surprised that this post made it to the internet. Like many of my fellow writers, I scrutinise every detail and sentence, and eventually, question the entire concept of my work and deem it void of purposeful content.

And I guess this has its silver linings, because I’m learning to edit and adapt and craft meaningful content. However, on the other hand, this infuriating cycle of work and abandonment leaves me a drained writer and a sorry excuse of a blogger.

At 16, the time I dedicate to writing does not exceed more than half a dozen hours a week, as much as I would like to, I am not a full-time blogger and writer. My energy and motivation comes in unpredictable surges, I create a months worth of content within a few hours, publish it in a wild frenzy of excitement and revel in the smattering of comments left. Alternatively, I abandon my blog for months, neglect my unstructured schedule and leave people wondering where I’ve been. (sorry)

Although I’m confident that I’m not the only young writer who has trouble being consistent, I’m sure there are some writers, either young or experienced, out there who have strict disciplines when it comes to writing and follow structures that help then produce a steady stream of content. I’m not striving for military discipline, and as much as I am in love with the notion of spontaneous prose and Kerouac’s work, I am fully aware of the fact that On The Road is old Jack’s single greatest hit.

Whilst I can, I’d like to nail the art of successful writing, seeing as we are destined to have a life long love affair, and I would like to share this journey with you.

This post is the commencement of a new blog series on this website: WRITE OUR AGE.

Share this post on Facebook and Twitter with any writers who you think may have the same issues and invite them to join the discussion!