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.
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 Sorcerer’s Gamble is finally able to be ordered as a physical copy! These copies are priced at $9.99 and are available now on amazon.
The Crystal Seal is free (as an ebook) until tomorrow so this could be your last chance to grab the digital copy for free!
Thank you to everyone who has already checked out The Sorcerer’s Gamble, and I hope everyone is as excited as I am that the paperback is out now as well!
Today marks the day that The Sage of Hytrae Trilogy is finally complete! Well it would be if Amazon would actually let me release it. It exited review today (which means I should have been able to launch it). But unfortunately since I updated one field (added more keywords >.>) it has to be “reviewed” again… They were able to get this turned around in 48hours last time so hopefully this time will be quicker. Anyway, watch this space for further details. I will be continuing to fight their Kindle filters (hopefully I can get at least one version actually released today). I did not have nearly as many issues when it was createspace and not just amazon, oh well.
Talk to you all again real soon.
I finally uploaded the cover art 😀
You can take a look by clicking the link (it’s in pdf format so WordPress wont imbed it).
Don’t forget, the conclusion to The Sage of Hytrae Trilogy releases Next Week!
I’m afraid I don’t have book cover art to upload with me tonight (I just simply don’t have that PC with me) but I wanted to give a quick update.
I have been able to eliminate all but one pesky formatting issue for the printed book (and the one that is left I have no idea how to fix, and if I cannot fix I can live with it). So all is good to be releasing on schedule next week (wow it’s coming up fast on me). If I can remember to either send my phone the images or get on my home PC to post there I will get the artwork up for everyone to see soon.
Anyway, I just felt like I should drop a quick note (I am not letting my launch date slip a third time). So, see you guys soon!
Sorry I didn’t get this out last week. Between working long hours at work, and fighting with KDP to get the print to look right (I’m about half way through that fight right now), I just didn’t have time to post until now.
I have sent the manuscript to the copyright agency, so the ball is rolling there. I will continue to get more done on the artwork side this week as I am able. I am hoping to have new banners for both this site and facebook.
Anyway, I am posting the synopsis from the back cover of my book below to give a little tease of what is to come later this month. Enjoy!
Mistar recovered a lost research tome that reveals the plot to bring Hytrae into darkness. He must race to alert the orders of magic before it is too late! During this time, Cyan and Lucy have trained over the winter at the Northern Monastery. Lucy easily passed her trials but Cyan has yet to attempt them. Three must stand at the end of the age, and Fate has a way of forcing you hand….
It has happened. I don’t think anyone thought it ever would but it has happened. I finished editing the final installment in The Sage of Hytrae trilogy! All that is left is to finalize the artwork and get it out to all of you 😀
The Sorcerer’s Gamble is releasing November 20th, 2018 and we will be running special promotions on the previous two installments as well. Over the next week I plan to give a sneak peek at the artwork, as well as, detail more about the promotion and maybe even offer a preview of the book (another one actually, as the baited fan will already know).
I whole heartily wish I had gotten this done sooner for everyone. But what’s done is done, and the final proof is done! You all will be hearing again from me real soon, so stay tuned to this channel for further details!
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Progress is still being made on getting the second draft of the Sorcerer’s gamble finished (I am hoping to have it done this weekend). I know I planed on getting artwork posted this month but I only have a rough sketch and the start of the actual digital work finished. Instead of posting the rough sketch I will wait until I have the digital book cover (draft two is a higher priority on my plate right now anyway). We are still sitting comfortably inside our release window, I might not get to do some of the extra stuff (advertisement related), but honestly word of mouth has sold more books than any online add for me.
Anyway, I hope everyone has had a great April. I know I have a good month, my boys are growing up so fast. The weather is finally warm here in Ohio (winter is gone!). I might start a new series this summer, I have some ideas I have kept on back burner while I focused on getting The Sage of Hytrae trilogy finished. Of course I might do nothing, or something completely different! My day job (I work for the Aviation testing industry) might be shifting some hours on us so that could help or hurt my writing time (depending on where I try to fit it in). Have a great last few days of this month, and I will see you all again next one!