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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I have been giving my next project a lot of thought this month. Among my ideas were some projects I started back in December of last year (and some even older than that). It has not been easy to choose which project to work on next. Despite this difficulty I have decided a plan of action, and I do have some details to share!
I’m happy to announce that the next book I am working on will be an all new tale with a pleasant mix of Science Fiction, and Fantasy. An exhilarating story that mixes science and magic, in ways that might challenge the way you look at the two. This stand alone Novel will place you, the reader, into the story and whisk you away on a journey that will be hard to forget!
You might be thinking: Hey, The Sage of Hytrae trilogy had some Science fiction elements in it too, what makes this different? I would say that trilogy focused more on the fantasy side of the story, but don’t worry we’ll be getting back to Hytrae eventually.
So what other details can I share? Well, I obviously don’t have a release date, I haven’t been writing this one very long after all. But I can tell you that my plan is for this book to be out by the end of summer (if all goes according to plan that is). I’m excited to share more as it develops over the next couple months!
I’m hoping to get the website updates, banner, artwork, etc. done this month as well so hopefully we’ll have something a little more fitting for a multi series/genre/novel author blog page.
Until next time, and don’t feed the Jacobs!
Hey everyone, sorry this is a couple weeks behind. Anyway, here we go. I do apologize in advance, this one might be a bit more of a rant haha.
Last post we defined Creativity, in a nutshell it is the ability to create, or to present new things out of existing things. Creativity is more than just “original ideas” but rather an extension of our very selves in what we do.
The importance of creativity cannot be understated. Without it we have no voice, only echos. You see unless you are thinking for yourself you will only say, do, or think what others around you do. This is an extremely dangerous thing, and it is the crippling issue of our society today. So many of us rather not put in the effort (and creativity is a great effort make no mistake), so we follow rather than strike out for ourselves. Mimicking, or copying, might be the highest form of flattery, but it is also lazy and unoriginal.
Don’t mistake this for inspiration drawn from others, which is not lazy. In fact, when it comes from a good source it can lead to far more creativity than without it.
All humans are capable of creativity, it is not restricted to just the arts! Pioneers in industry, business, and technology are absolutely just as creative as an artist or author. Without creativity we become stagnant and do not grow as people, nor as a society. This is why I have a passion against things like “common core” or more “reformed education” as they actively stomp out creativity in every faucet that I have ever encountered it. If we do not teach our children that creativity is good, or how to be creative then we doom ourselves in only a generation’s time!
Okay, attacking “common core” is a bold move I know. So here let me give a bit of evidence for that. Lets take math for instance. Under common core we attempt to equip children with the same set of tools to solve equations, and determine the solution. That sounds like a good thing right? Well it is not a good thing at all! You see, a problem (math or otherwise) always has multiple ways to solve it. In fact in my college Calculus class I know my professor went over no less than six ways to solve a single complicated math problem (all very distinct from one another as well). I do grant that some ways to solve a problem build easier into other more complicated problems. This does not account for the fact however, that every child’s mind is different. Not teaching kids a way that their brain understands, rather than try to force them to under stand the “common core” way is not doing them any favors. It is like saying every hole can be filled with the same round peg, even when the hole is a rectangle, oval, or triangle.
What does this have to do with creativity? Everything! Don’t think for a minute that we knew how to do complicated math without creativity paving the frontier. But rather than trying to teach our children the ability to reason and think for themselves, we have them memorize tables of conversions… An ounce of creativity is worth a pound of knowledge, without creative minds we would not have learned anything about anything.
Bottom line, out of the gifts of God, creativity helps us to grow in knowledge and better know Him. Love shows us how God see’s the world and it’s people. Creativity helps us learn about everything he put into the world. We should be teaching our children to Love their enemies, because wrath belongs to the Lord. We should also be teaching our children to be creative, because success doesn’t happen by chance. In order to do new things we must think of them first. In order to think of new things we must first be creative.
I’ll see you all next week, may God bless you and keep you.
So what is this Creativity stuff anyway? Is it like a secret sauce that binds a story together? Is it necessary for art to exist at all?
Merriam – Webster defines creativity as : the ability to create.
Dictionary.com expands on this in its second definition which goes something like this: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.
What does any of that really mean though? So to be creative means to not be normal? but isn’t normal actually an illusion and rather an average of the collective?
I like to use the Merriam – Webster definition, even though it’s a bit more vague. The ability to create, but how does relate to an ability really?
I mean everyone can create right? You create things every day: A schedule, a meal, excuses, etc. But not everyone is really very creative right?
The Creative Writing class I had in college was my favorite English related class I’d ever had. Why? No it wasn’t the subject matter, or the teacher was the best or anything like that. It was because I could be creative obviously, so what does that mean?
I was able to pick my subject matter, I could pick why I was writing about it, I could decided what direction to steer the reader. It was literately the addition of Choice into writing that I never had the freedom to do until that point.
Creativity is the junction of ideas, choice, and perception of the artist (in the terms of creativity we are all artists in our own way after all).
Whew. Yeah it really took that much just to tease out a definition. If your still here this is where it gets good 😉
Lets define the parts that make up creativity a bit to expand the context of what it really is.
Ideas, everyone has them. They are the start of every story, artwork, or plan. Ideas are the easy part, but creativity is an action word. As an Action word that means there is work, part of that is choice.
Choice, lets you pick. It is really that simple. Pick what? Everything, from the subject, to the direction, to the message/meaning, and more. Choice is the work, but tends to take a lot of people by surprise how hard it can be. When you stare at that blank page, piece of paper, canvas, lump of clay, or whatever, it can be really hard to decide where to start, let alone a message or meaning.
Most people think that the hardest part of writing, or even art, is actually doing the work. Putting words on the page, or paint on the canvas, etc. that is what the writer or artist does to relax, that is not the real work. The real work is direction, perseverance, and keeping on track to not change your message/meaning mid project (sooo easy to fall into that last issue).
If you know much about me, you know that I am a Christian. Since that is ingrained into my perspective you will also find my work tends to show that as well. My creativity will reflect God in it as such.
In fact the living God, Creator of the universe, is the source of all creativity. We cannot actually create anything, only transform what we see, feel or can touch. God however created all of it, including thought. Creativity is a way in which all of mankind reflects its creator. The only way we as humans show our God more is though love. After all, God is Love.
I’ll see you all next week, may God bless you and keep you.
Thank you Everyone!
For all the support over the years. The Sage of Hytrae Trilogy is now complete with the latest installment The Sorcerer’s Gamble (Available now at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1720324964). I would like to thank everyone who has bought or downloaded any of the books over the years! You guys are the real MVPs and have allowed me to see that not only can I finish writing a book but people can enjoy them.
I plan to spend the month of December exploring different writing projects. As always I will update everyone here if and when I have updates on all my writing related ventures. So far it’s been a bit of a rocky year, but I am grateful for everyone sticking through it with me.
The Sage of Hytae trilogy is complete! The Sorcerer’s Gamble is released on Kindle! (Print to follow very soon, just have to finish fixing some print errors today). To celebrate the release The Crystal Seal (book one in the trilogy)is free for the next four days! On top of that The Candesent Vessel is on a count down sale for a week, if you pick it up today you can get it for only 99cents! Those are of course the kindle editions of the books, but still pretty sweet deal.
The Sorcerer’s Gamble is $4.99! (not 5.99 like my other ebooks were their first year so price break there 😀 ). Thank you all for your patience in waiting for the release to finally happen. I hope everyone enjoys the completed series and if at all possible leaves some amazon reviews, and tell your friends (Advertising is expensive and hasn’t been kind to me so far ha ha).
Until next time (when the physical book is actually available I hope). Have a great day!