Basics of Writing: Character Building

Hey everyone,

Last week we started this series of the Basics of Writing with world building here is a link in case you missed it: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/07/09/basics-of-writing-world-building/

This week we are diving into some of the basics of Character building. I feel like this topic doesn’t need me to explain why it is important, I mean what kind of story is it if you have poorly built characters? That isn’t to say that books haven’t been written with bad characters, but such stories tend to be forgotten. After all, your characters are (typically) who tells your story to begin with.

So, how do we build a character anyway? Well, it helps if we start with an archetype. You have many to choose from, the “everyman” to “paragon” to “mary sue” just kidding don’t use that last one. Now, please understand me here, Do Not stick to an archetype solely, or force a character to only fit in one category. Sticking too strictly to an archetype tends to make your characters boring, and stagnant. You do need to utilize them however, because if you say have a character that switches what category they fall in rapidly without good reason you will only confuse your reader. I mean, we didn’t see Frodo (everyman) turn into Gandalf (paragon/sage) in the end of the Fellowship of the ring.

So lets build a character from scratch right now.

Ok, so we are going with “everyman” in this example. It is can be a common archetype for the main character of a book. They are easy for the reader to relate to, and tend to struggle with similar things that most people struggle with. They don’t normally possess any extra ordinary skills either.

What kind of physical traits should he/she have? Well, we should probably make sure they are close to “average” maybe a little taller/shorter, a little more/less strong than their peers, and have a certain yearning to become something more than what they are now.

So lets make this a female character, who is a little taller than average, and while lacking extra strength physically she knows how to use her height to win a fight if she needs to. She has brown hair that sits just above her shoulders in length, and has a natural wave to it. She has fierce green eyes, and a thin face with a few freckles on her cheeks.

There we go. We have the appearance of a character, but that is only the beginning. Now you need to have a couple story decisions before you can do much more. For instance, is this your main protagonist? Lets say she is, what kind of character traits should she have? Well kind and loyal are both normal protagonist traits, but we don’t want to fit the mold too closely so how about we go the route of loner and suspicious of others?

We have a couple of character traits now, that’s a good start. But it doesn’t mean much without context now does it? Which is what the first part character building truly is at its core: Giving the reader background information about characters in a story over the course of many chapters. You can start your first chapter and revel your character’s appearance, and even dominant traits within the first few pages. Explaining  as the story goes on what struggles they face going forward, and have already faced help the reader to understand what this character is all about.

So say about five chapters in you find out that due to the betrayal by a close family friend, she lost her younger brother to a group of bandits and doesn’t know if he is even alive. That would explain why she tends to be suspicious of others and why she tends to be a bit of a loner.

The next part of Character Building is growing your characters over the course of the story. Our green eyed protagonist is forced to work with another girl and that girl’s brother in order to proceed the plot. This makes the character uncomfortable, and forces them to adapt to new situations they have previously avoided. Being placed in uncontrollable circumstances is another trait of the “everyman” and one that is fairly universally kept.

Now you have a growing opportunity for the protagonist. They could work with others better as a result of this situation, voice their distrust which could lead to emotional growth, or even out right fail and see it as justification of their previous feelings causing them to grow more callous towards others. Growth is necessary regardless of what traits your character ends up growing into. It makes the reader gain more emotional connection to the characters, look at Harry Potter. He started something of an “everyman” and towards the end took on the mantle of “the hero”. That growth took place over several books, and countless situations. In the end he even changed archetypes (which is also okay, when there is enough supporting information for it).

You as a writer weave the story, and build the world, and the characters within it. By using effective world building, and character building you can write memorable stories for people to enjoy for generations. These are your two greatest tools as a writer. You must learn how to use them effectively if you wish to create great stories, and further yourself in the art. Of course you can also just use the information to make better creative narratives for a school assignment as well, so to each their own haha.

That is all for this week, I hope this explanation made sense to all of you.

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Basics of writing: World Building

Hey everyone,

This week in the basics of writing, we will be covering World Building. Well, world building within fiction anyway.

So what is world building?

As the name implies world building is a building of the world in which your story takes place. Setting the stage for the reader. Forging a world to get lost into.

So it’s like, the supporting details about the places the story takes place in?

Yes, and no.

World Building is far more than just a couple of lines that set the atmosphere. It does much more than just describe the difference between scenes. The goal is to make this land of fantancy feel just as impactful as the world in which you read the book from.

Which gets us to why it’s important.

Character dialogue is great inside a story. Epic conflicts, growth (physical and emotional), and accomplishments are all awesome to read. None of these and more, have any lasting impact without effective world building.

If you don’t believe that the place exists, how are consequences meaningful? Can you achieve something in your mind only? No, not really. Yet stories can make you feel accomplished, despite not really existing outside your mind. This is due to effective world building.

So we have covered the what and the why of this subject. Now let’s dive into the how.

This is something that is easy to mess up when starting to write. Books especially require well thought out world building to keep a reader hooked. This can be solved by trying to find natural ways for your story to answer some questions about itself.

Those questions could be like:

  • How do people earn money in this area?
  • What are common modes of transportation?
  • What does the political scene look like?
  • What do people eat?
  • What are the species of this world?

And the list can go on forever. The point is, don’t be afraid to draw paralels and contrasts to our world. Don’t force it though, that can break emersion. For instance:

Say people can’t ride horses in this country. A poor way to explain that could be.

“It is illegal to ride a horse in this region. We’ll have to walk.”

That sentence doesn’t help develop more out of the world, rather it just places the obstacle and tells you people ride horses. A better way to do this would be:

“Riding horses in this region became illegal some time ago. It is due to the king becoming gravely injured while riding a horse as a child. It would be best if we simply walked instead”

You see the second does a few extra things (besides just increase the word count). It establishes a monarchy in the region. A passage time is implied, which builds a local history. It can be assumed that the ruler of this region is cautious, and wishes to keep his subjects safe (albeit in an overprotective way).

World Building answers questions the reader might not have known to ask. It keeps you thinking about the settings and characters within the story. These are key to keeping interest of your audience, and crafting an emersive world.

Well that’s all I have about the basics of writing when it comes to world building. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Last chance to get The complete trilogy for free!

Hey everyone,

The KDP free book promotion ends today for The Sage of Hytrae trilogy!

Fill out the holes in your collection, or grab the whole thing before it returns to $5 a book.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who have grabbed a copy of one or more of my books. If you liked them, please consider leaving a review. Without reviews Amazon’s algorithm can’t suggest it to new people. It’s one of the major obstacles to overcome being self published.

Thanks again everyone! And remember, Don’t feed the Jacob’s.

The Sage of Hytrae trilogy is Free Today!

Hey everyone!

Today (and until July 8th) all three of the sage of hytrae books are free to buy on amazon kindle! This is in celebration of a Summer of reading, to help promote more reading through the summer months (especially while in school). So tell your friends, nieces, nephews, kids, grandkids, parents, whoever you know who likes reading or needs to read more!

The Crystal seal (book 1): https://www.amazon.com/Crystal-Seal-Sage-Hytrae-Book-ebook/dp/B00VFKJ78A/

The Candescent Vessel (book 2): https://www.amazon.com/Candescent-Vessel-Sage-Hytrae-Book-ebook/dp/B01CDIBY2E/

The Sorcerer’s Gamble (book 3): https://www.amazon.com/Sorcerers-Gamble-Sage-Hytrae-Book-ebook/dp/B07KSQTZ2B/

Grab a copy of each today and get a great adventure for the best price out there… Free!

oh, and if you liked them please leave a review. It really helps us self published authors to be discovered by new readers. Thank you for reading!

Free Reads in July

Hey everyone!

I might not have a normal update this month, but I’ve got something better for everyone… Free books!

The entire Sage of Hytrae trilogy will be Free starting July 4th, and until July 8th. This marks the first time you can pick up the entire series for free since the series concluded late last year! This kind of deal won’t likely happen again so don’t miss out, links to each below.

The Crystal Seal: https://www.amazon.com/Crystal-Seal-Sage-Hytrae-Book-ebook/dp/B00VFKJ78A/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=the+sage+of+hytrae&qid=1562072159&s=gateway&sr=8-3

The Candescent Vessel: https://www.amazon.com/Candescent-Vessel-Sage-Hytrae-Book-ebook/dp/B01CDIBY2E/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=the+sage+of+hytrae&qid=1562072159&s=gateway&sr=8-2

The Sorcerer’s Gamble: https://www.amazon.com/Sorcerers-Gamble-Sage-Hytrae-Book-ebook/dp/B07KSQTZ2B/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+sage+of+hytrae&qid=1562072159&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Why would I give away literally every book I’ve written, so far, away for free you ask?

Well two reasons. First to hopefully gain some reviews. Without reviews on my books people don’t get them recommended to them, they don’t show up on anyone’s list of reads from amazon, and they don’t show up well on amazon search results. If I can get the books into a few thousand hands for free, my hope is at least 1% of them leave reviews. This helps me long term.

The second reason I am giving them away is to help promote summer reading. These books target a large age demographic. From late elementary to Jr high all the way up to your grandma, is an age you could enjoy these books. It is beneficial (especially in school) to read over the summer. It helps your grades at the beginning of the next school year plus keeps you entertained during down time through the summer.

A couple things people have told me in person about the book (which I wish had been left as reviews online haha):

“Easy to pick up, hard to put down” – Young adult

“I don’t normally read this sort of thing, but I honestly enjoyed it a lot” – somebody’s Grandma

So my hope is to get some copies out there one way or another. Don’t miss out to get the entire adventure for the best price out there… Free!

Please note, Only the kindle ebook’s are free during this time frame. It would be quite difficult to talk amazon into giving away paperbacks haha.

Why do I write?

Hey everyone,

A question that I have found hard to answer is: What do I want out of [insert situation/job position here]. A paycheck is the obvious answer of course in a lot of cases. It’s an answer a lot of us have to the question but rarely do we give that answer. We come up with some throw away line like “to build up my experience” “expand my understanding” or “move into the next step of my career”. But to give an honest answer? It’s likely to get a few extra numbers thrown into the bank account at the end of the day.

Now to be clear, I have never really wanted to be wealthy. I would be quite happy living in an RV, or a shack (preferably near an ocean). To live comfortably was always my desire out of my income.

So why bring all this up in an article about why I write? I’m glad you asked.

There are two distinctions I need to make, and the first is teased out above. Why do I publish my books? Is to make money. My dream is to quit my day job, bridges burning and just write for a living. In order to do that, I need to make something off the finished stories to pay the bills and such. You will find that is why pretty much every author publishes their works (getting it out to the public only counts as a reason if you always give it away for free 😉).

So that is why I publish, but why do I write?

I write for three main reasons. First, as a release/destraction from everyday life. Writing helps me process my emotions. In that way it’s a release, allowing me to express a large range of feelings.

Second reason is to finish the stories in my head. I have several stories running through my head constantly. Writing them down allows me to develop them in such a way that I can get them out of my head 😂. They do fade on their own eventually, but I have had the same story playing through my head for over a year before.

The third reason is… well, because I can. It kinda sounds funny to put it that way but hear me out. I am quite poor at drawing things out from my head. I cannot sculpt, or make pottery. I have the ability to string out my thoughts on paper in a creative way. It plays into the other two reasons, but it really is it’s own reason. For instance: I would love to make video games. My talents don’t lend themselves to game creation, writing books however is a perfect fit.

So that is why I write, well that and I enjoy it haha. Now let me ask all of you. What is your creative outlet if you have one?

This is the last blog of the month, and this subject ties into my plans for next month very well. In July I will be writing a series about the basics of writing. This is part of encouraging summer reading, I will have something fun to announce for July here soon as well.

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Expectations are dangerous

Hey everyone,

Here we go again. I think this one might be easy to agree with. Expectations and their more dangerous nature is a well covered topic. It is easy to find any number of publications covering the subject. However, why are expectations so dangerous?

Most will argue that high expectations set you up for disappointment. So many people find the fear of disappointment so suffocating that they set the bar very low to avoid it. In truth the danger is setting your expectations too low not too high.

Disappointment is a good thing, which I covered in a blog a couple of weeks ago so if you missed that you can checkout the link here: https://christopherjhillger.com/2019/06/06/disappointment-is-always-a-good-thing/

When your expectations are low, they are easily met, and on top of that you build the wrong mindset. I had this issue not long ago when I launched my third book. Due to a number of perceived problems with my previous advertising, the delays the book received, and difficulty in getting noticed in the crowded market I set my expectations rock bottom. This hurt my book’s launch since I put less effort since my expectations were low. Low expectations hurt my audience since word didn’t reach them as quickly that the book was launched. Finally it hurt myself, putting my self esteem low (which most people convince themselves is why to set the expectations low in the first place).

Had I kept shooting as high as I could imagine perhaps growth would occur when I kept leaping for it. You see, if the bar is low you won’t get far. If the goal is set high, you will probably not get there, but you’re likely to get farther than where you get when the goal is easy to achieve. If you set the expectations low, you don’t grow.

Growing is painful. It’s a fact of life. Do you remember growing pains when you were young? My oldest son complains about them nearly every day. When you face disappointment it hurts, but you learn from failure, and learning is how you grow to improve it for next time.

So set your sights high, and you might be surprised by where you land.

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Why disinterest is your greatest adversary

Hey everyone,

While writing, working at your job, going to school, or interacting with others there are many things that can make your life more difficult. Disliking the activity, people you don’t get along with, and disinterest are just a few. I would argue that the most powerful one you face is disinterest.

When you’re disinterested it causes the worst responses possible. Apathy is the opposite of love, and as such it works to remove your desire to have any connection to the activity at hand.  This couples into depression as well. I, like many other people, have mistaken depression to be a feeling of inescapable sadness. Depression isn’t always sad however, more often it is more like a lack of caring.

Not caring about something, or being disinterested, makes it exceedingly difficult to do anything. Depression is the ultimate expression of this phenomenon. Why do we have apathy then? There is a good reason for it though.

Apathy is a defense mechanism, a shield. It is hard for something to hurt you if you don’t care about it. This has great power over your emotions, actions, and interactions. As such when left out of check, it can ruin your relationships, or worse lead into a depression spiral. Getting out of this situation is easiest when you haven’t let it have control of too many parts of your life.

To conquer disinterest you must let things feel again. Your happiness doesn’t work without something sad to compare it to. To feel love you must be exposed to pain. It isn’t fun, but you must not let apathy control you. When it runs your life it only leads to depression, when you take control back you feel again and it won’t likely be pleasant. Don’t give up though, lean on your friends, family, or seek professional help. The best thing you can do is seek Jesus and a relationship with him if you haven’t already. God knows how powerful your emotions are, and will help you though the hard times when you lean on him. He doesn’t promise an easy life, but does promise you will never be alone. You can find more information on that at places like hope.org, or reach out to me or any number of Christians out there. Our purpose isn’t to judge, or ridicule, but to offer help to this broken world (remember we all are broken too).

Until next time, my God bless you and keep you.

Disappointment is always a good thing

Hey everyone,

Ever been disappointed with something or someone? You more than likely have, so have I.

For whatever reason somethings just never seem to live up to our expectations. Sometimes that causes us to lower our standards, sometimes it means voicing concern about the thing or person. Whatever you have been disappointed by in life so far, remember that disappointment is a good thing.

Ok, you’ve lost me you crazy guy. What do you mean disappointment is a good thing? It never feels good to be disappointed.

Well no, it rarely feels good to be disappointed; but that does not mean that it isn’t a good emotion to have. In fact it is a great emotion to have, about things and especially people. Ok, before you go off the deep end, let me explain.

What does it mean to be disappointed? Well, it means something or someone didn’t live up to your standards or to what you expected. Expectations and standards are things we rarely place on anything that we do not value.

You know that sports team you barely remember the name of? Oh hey, they won their last game. Do you care? No. Why not? Because you don’t place any value in them (not to say that their is no value in them, only that they don’t mean anything to you).

Your parents however are likely a different story. Whether your parent’s live up to your expectations or not, there is likely some disappointment with them your remember from growing up. Does that mean your parent’s are the worst in the world? No, and even if they are, the presence of disappointment means you place value in them, even if they weren’t the greatest.

I have been very blessed to have had such supportive parents growing up, not everyone does. But pretty much everyone has had a parent or guardian that was disappointed in them during their life (possibly they still are). This isn’t a bad thing, in fact it is the opposite. You see, the presence of disappointment means that you have value to them, that they love you.

Whether it is a person (like family, or friends), or a thing (like a favorite movie series) disappointment means that there were standards to begin with. You don’t place standards on things you do not care about, and as such a lack of disappointment in your life probably means you don’t value very many things.

Disappointment is good, and leads to you having strong emotions about that person or thing. Just remember to try and put a more constructive spin on your feedback, just like God puts in his disappointment with us. Humanity fails, on repeat, but God is always trying to give us advice in how to live our lives. He doesn’t give us some checklist, but actual feedback and purpose to our mistakes.

Until next time! May God bless you and keep you.

Monthly update time!

Hey everyone!

I’m happy to say that progress is being made on the newest book, as well as the new banner for the site!

I have a bit of editing to do on the banner, but it should be live in the next week or two. (Update: Its up now haha)

As for the current book in progress; some new scheduling of my time should get progress going more consistently on all my writing projects! So look forward to some new details in the coming weeks and months as it begins to really take shape!

Last month we looked at creativity in a number of blog posts. This month the plan is to cover two or three new topics. One of which will be: Disappointment is always a good thing. An odd statement I know, don’t worry we’ll look more into it soon.

That’s all the news I’ve got for now. So until next time, and remember don’t feed the Jacobs