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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.

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.

Why should I be creative? and how can I become more creative?

Hey everyone,

This is the last entry on the “creativity series” of blog posts. The final two subjects were really so related I figured we would tackle them in one post. In the first two entries we defined creativity, and explained why it is important. So we know what creativity is and why it is important, but why should we strive to be creative?

Creativeness is a truly interesting trait. Creative people tend to look at the world in unique ways. For instance, you have a problem at work, no wait lets be more specific.

You need to build a presentation for your boss. The boss wants you to figure out a replacement for an aging piece of equipment, lets say a printer to keep it simple. You could just look up a few and pick a printer that matches your needs within a reasonable price. That is the direct way to replace it, but what happens when your boss asks ‘why did you pick that printer? I heard good things about x’ or something along those lines. Well that is where the presentation comes in.

Perhaps you should create a little 5 slide presentation that shows, review scores, price, capabilities, customer support options, and ease of use. All those slides would feature different graphs, like a few bar graphs to show price comparison, a line graph for review scores, etc. Now when you present that to your boss, he/she will know you actually did your homework and that a though process went into your selection. A presentation like this would be a common application of creativity in the work place. The building of something original, in order to present an idea, or thought. Also this is more likely to get you some positive points with your boss by just putting together something with a bit of creativity.

That is just one example. Creativity makes you stand out. Everyone is unique so that doesn’t really set us apart from one another. Demonstrating your ability to be creative, and use that as a positive force in your life will always make you noticed from your peers.

‘Okay, so I get why it could be helpful, so I should get me some more of this creative stuff. How do I do that?’

It isn’t easy to come up with ways to be creative if you don’t have a lot of creativity to start with. Funny enough, creativity is actually obtained only from the influence of others. Let me explain. Some people are born creative, they received it from God. Everyone else becomes creative by watching, taking note, and attempting to apply the things the creative people are doing. Why do you think more people don’t write books, creative masterful pieces of art, or design engineering marvels? Most of those people are born with a gift, but the rest of us can do it too, just not on our own.

To become more creative, you need to talk to people, read article/books written by creative people, seek artworks, look over technical designs (if you can under stand them), or even go into nature and look at a glimpse of God’s pure creativity. Creativity is born of inspiration, so everyone can get it since we all can be inspired.

As the old saying goes, great things are born of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I would argue that even though the percentages are so unbalanced that both the 1% and 99% are actually equally valuable.  Without the inspiration you just sit in the same spot spinning your wheels and not knowing where to go. Creativity is the action of taking inspiration and forming it into a use within the real world. This still leads to more work, but it is work with direction and purpose.

I hope this series helped someone out there. Next week we’ll be starting another series, I’m not completely decided on what to start. Feel free to suggest a subject and I will do some research and cover it as best I can.

See you next week, and may God bless you and keep you.

 

Why is Creativity Important?

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.

What exactly is Creativity?

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.