Tag Archives: Characters

IWSG: Letting Others Be In Control

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(If you would like to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, take a look at it HERE.)

Hello, folks! I’ve been a terrible blogger for the entirety of my summer break. I think I’ve posted twice since finishing college. But my life has been a whirlwind of paperwork and packing. For those of you who don’t know, I accepted a job with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be starting a new life in the quaint little town of Mikawa where I’ll be teaching elementary and junior high students. You can read more about what I’ll be doing and how I’ve been hindered HERE. That’s probably all the shameless advertising I’ll do for my GoFundMe now. Within the next few days, I hope to start blogging about Japan and travel and adulting yet again. But for now, I’m going to chat about a few things that are close to my heart.

I’ve been writing since I discovered you didn’t need a permit to be creative. It’s one of the greatest outlets for venting feelings and exploring your imagination. Let’s face it; sometimes our thoughts run a little too rampant, and it’s healthy to organize our dragons, giant robots, and werecat vampires in our little journals or laptops or restaurant napkins. Unfortunately, writing tends to be a solitary occupation. I’ve hosted some writing clubs before and most of the time, those meetings are 80% discussion and snacking and maybe only 20% writing. It’s hard to be productive without the right group.

And unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to be productive by yourself. The world is full of distractions: Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, the fire works currently blowing up outside my window…(Guys…it’s day time. You can’t even SEE the fireworks.) I might find my quiet place one day, write 3,000 words, and be perfectly content, but I might also open up a Word document and spend the next three hours of my life researching how to hide a body. Why? Because I’m weak. Okay? Happy? The Internet is often stronger than I am. But it’s more than that. My muse can be flimsy and unmotivated. I’ll start a project excited about a new world of possibilities and later find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt.

I started roleplaying in junior high, and I’m going to be honest and say, I don’t know why I started. I think I just stumbled upon a forum one day and decided, “I don’t want to be creative by myself anymore. I want to be creative with others.” And I don’t regret that moment at all. I’ve watched myself grow as a writer and a collaborator. Roleplaying forces you to work on a plot with someone else or many people. You have to build a world through your interactions and weave a plot around both of your wants and desires. Sometimes world building is easy because you borrow from a video game or TV, but other times you start from nothing more than an idea and watch it blossom as two writers negotiate the terms of the plot.

Roleplaying isn’t without its vices however. I’ve noticed that over the years I’ve gotten lazy. I roleplay simply to advance the plot, and I lose sight of important things like characterization and style. Sometimes I over-complicate things with horribly elaborate ideas and find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt even with someone (or many people) to hold me accountable. It’s still possible to give up even when two people are working on a project. On top of it all, even if you have a lot of creative control, you only control your part of the world. Attempting to control a character that isn’t yours is considered: god-modding. Limited control is part of what makes roleplaying exciting, but as a writer, it’s also a pain. Don’t we want to control everything?

With a few close friends however, I’ve started playing around with an interesting idea that isn’t quite roleplaying, but it also isn’t a traditional collaboration. I can’t take credit for it at all, but they’ve given me permission to share it here. They’ve deemed it “Word Count RPing.” Its very essence is simplicity and collaboration. At the start of a WC RP, it has little to no planning. You start with an idea (usually vague), and you go from there. Each RPer is permitted around 200 to 300 words each time he/she posts. It’s still RPing because it’s back and forth between two (maybe more) writers. You share ideas, but both of you control the world. There is no “mine and yours.” It’s always ours. Without the leader and follower dynamic there’s a lot more creative freedom involved, and it’s still surprising because there is no definite plot for both of you to follow. If I want to surprise my partner, I can. If my partner wants to surprise me, he/she most certainly can!

I think writers often get too absorbed in their own little world. I’ve seen a lot of creative people who can only think about “MY” stuff. Collaboration is difficult because you’re thinking about how things have to work out to feed “MY” desires. You find yourself buried underneath…..plot bunnies and selfishness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a selfish writer. Explore your ideas. Be proud of what you create, but don’t exclude other people and ideas especially if you’re working on a creative project whether that’s roleplaying or collaboration. Maybe if you let people control your characters, you’ll get to see how the world views them. Maybe you’ll find things you can improve, or maybe you’ll even learn something new about that little figment of your imagination. (NOTE: I do not recommend participating in a WC RP with writers you do not know very well. While it has its benefits, you may also become frustrated with a partner that isn’t familiar with your style and flow.)

Perhaps this is a bit of a radical change to suggest that god-modding can be healthy. Sharing a creative thought with another person or a group of people is kind of scary, isn’t it? But I love it. I work better with people urging me to create. Is it really so scary to work together with others?

Z is for Zilver

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It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

This is my very last post for this challenge, and I must say…I’M BEYOND RELIEVED. Well…first, I’m proud of myself. I kept up with this challenge. I never posted something late, and I came up with a lot of nice ideas. (I’m going to have a busy summer, and I think I’m going to have plenty of personal projects to keep me busy.) I hope I inspired a few others as well. After I finish finals, I’m going to have time to go through and actually look at blogs besides my own. (To be honest, I’m sick of looking at my own words!) I may try to post more than once a week now, but we’ll see. I have a lot of adventures ahead of me.

Warning: this post will contain a lot of pictures.

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(2011)

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Zilver. Yes Zilver. I had wanted her name to be Silver, but one day my finger slipped and mixed up a few letters, and Zilver stuck. It was different and interesting to say the least. She started out as everything I wanted to be. She was loud and brave and interesting. She didn’t fight with her friends. She got to go on adventures. She was smart and talented…definitely not athletic, but I’m sure you get the picture. She had her flaws of course. She was helplessly clumsy. She was also very naive, and she still thought the world was a good place. Outside of her circle of friends, she had a difficult time connecting.

 

 

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Zilver and Finn, drawn by lilmissprine (2016)

She fell in love with a young knight named Finn. He thought she was genuine and real, and that made her feel really good about herself.

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Zilver and Jordahn, colored by lilmissprine (2012)

But for a little while, she was in love with a troll named Jordahn. Yes. Jordahn…there’s a little emphasis on the “ahn.” But that story never really got completed. It just sort of ended. Zilver ended up marrying Finn, and they had twins named Benji and Angela. (More fraternal twins!) And of course Zilver went on all sorts of adventures that were just lovely and great. She found her long-lost twin brother. She got captured by some bad people. She rescued a few friends.

Are you tired of this post yet? I am. Zilver is my greatest enemy, the monster I probably should I have never created. She started out as a way to express myself when I was a teenager. Things were unstable at home. I switched schools a lot. My internet life was really the only thing that kept me rooted, and roleplaying/writing was really the only way I could feel good about myself. I wanted to have an exciting, confident, endearingly lovable personality like Zilver. But I couldn’t. I tried time and time again to “be like Zilver.” Why could I be a confident person online but not in real life? So I wrote about her instead. At least I could pretend.

And you know what happened? I got sick of her. I tried to salvage her several times after about four years, to make her less…annoying, but I couldn’t do it. I never really had the will to use her much after I got out of high school, and do you know why that happened? I think I became a better person. I’m quite happy with who I am now. I’m awkward. I’m a little bit quirky. I go on adventures. Sure, there isn’t a boy, but does there need to be one? In a way, I surpassed every expectation I ever had for Zilver.

As a result, Zilver ended up becoming an embodiment of all the things I disliked about myself; I projected all of my self-esteem issues onto her. She moped around. She didn’t see her strength. She lost her humor and intelligence. Basically, she was a caricature of my inner-demons. So I stopped using her. There’s a part of me that wants to love her still. Zilver Hawk will always be my username for most forums. She’s part of my identity, but my original character just isn’t me anymore. And I’m happy with that.

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(2012)

I still use her in the occasional roleplay…usually for nostalgia’s sake. I hope someday I’ll be able to revisit her, but today is not that day. I suppose until then, she’ll just be a pleasant memory.

 

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Zilver, drawn by Astrid Johannson (my bff) (2009)

Y is for Yue

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It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

I have something to confess.

I really dislike heroines in Young Adult novels. There are very few female protagonists that I actually like. (Hermione from the Harry Potter franchise is one of the first I came to respect. And I read those books for the first time last year.) Granted, I haven’t read a lot of YA novels lately (feel free to give me recommendations), but here are a few not-so brief reasons as to why I don’t like many female protagonists:

  • The author tries too hard to make them “strong, independent women.” There is nothing wrong with being strong or independent or a woman, but for some reason, that translates as, “You need to be stubborn and refuse help from everyone and put all the world’s burdens on your shoulders…but you also need a boy.” There’s always a boy involved. I’d like to see novels where the heroine is independent in a way that isn’t destructive.
  • She’s always awkward…but is she really? This this seems to be a trend with YA authors who want to create a relatable character. “Oh, I’m your average Jane Doe. Look how awkward I am. No one could possibly like me,” she says as she flips her impossibly perfect hair. I’m an awkward person. I know awkward. It doesn’t just mean that you’re uncomfortable in a social situation. It doesn’t mean that you have one or two friends because everyone else hates you. My awkwardness shows in my sense of humor and how loud I am, how sheltered I am. Once I dig myself a hole, I keep digging, and I make it worse. I’m melodramatic. There’s a lot more to being awkward than being an outcast. (And I’d like to point out that most of these girls are self-imposed outcasts.)
  • Most YA heroines forfeit traditional roles because apparently that’s the only way to be strong. Now I know what you’re thinking. “This is the 21st century! We’re beyond that!” But I’m a traditional person. In my opinion, some of the bravest women are mothers, and I’ve always wanted to read a story about a young mother (or even a middle-aged mother) fighting for what she believes in. I think that’s why I love Molly Weasley so much. (Granted, I also love women in non-traditional roles. The female soldier from the movie World War Z was beyond epic.) I think you can have it all: a woman who clings to traditional values and chooses to be a leader.

Now that I’ve talked your ear off…allow me to introduce my character. Yue Li Xiu is a general for a group known as the Dragon’s Throat. She worked for these knights on and off throughout her early years before deciding to take a break after she got pregnant. She was in love with a fellow soldier, and he was in love with her. They never really got married, but she gave birth to a healthy baby boy and was content taking care of him until…

…a soldier she had burned in the past came looking for revenge. I can’t remember if she had rejected him as a lover or had gotten him into some trouble for inappropriate conduct. I believe it was the latter. This man was known for doing rather inappropriate things with the new recruits. Well, her not-hubby was killed. Her son was taken. And Yue was left injured. She spent a good, long time looking for her boy, but it was no use. She spent some time in recovery before rejoining the knights. Very few people know about her tragic love story, and she tries not to let it interfere with her work.

I like Yue a lot because she’s stern, but she doesn’t let her broken heart keep her from healing. And she doesn’t treat people like crap just because she had a tragic past. She mourns when it’s appropriate and has tried to build a new life for herself. Her past doesn’t necessarily define her. It comes back to haunt her, but she fights it, and she lets others help her. She struggles with her vices, but she recognizes that she has faults and tries to move beyond them. Being a leader doesn’t mean thinking about yourself. It means thinking about your organization, and she tries to think about her country and the men/women under her before she does something wild and reckless.

X is for….uhhh…

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It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

So…for some reason I thought I had a character named Xerxes… I searched through a pile of notes for what seemed like ages. I asked a friend who remembers more about my work than I do. He thought the name sounded somewhat familiar. We dug some more. I think I had a faint glimmer of a concept once upon a time, but it got buried beneath schoolwork and suffering, so I’m going to do something a little different today. (YES. I can do that. Totally my challenge. I make the rules, so I can bend them…or break them.) I’m going to create a new character, and I’m going to take you through my creative process.

Phase One: The Art of Naming

I usually have no expectations when I name a character. In the past, you can see that I’ve tried very hard to make my names fit my characters perfectly. Now I just search for names I like and names that fit a character’s circumstances. I mean…it’s very unlikely that a character from pre-Revolution France would have a name like Katniss. And it’s probably pretty strange for a kid in our day and age to be named Lysander (even though that’s a super awesome name, and we should bring it back).

So I started out by searching for “X” names, since I need an “X” character for this challenge. I also decided that I wanted a more feminine sounding name. (Note: I’m not a big fan of making up my own names. Every once in a while, I’ll do it, but I prefer to search for names first.) Ultimately, I found that I liked the names Xahlia (no meaning), Xahria (“flower”), and Xandria (“defender of humankind”). At this point, I didn’t know which name I liked best, so I decided to move on to phase two.

Phase Two: Behind the Backstory

I’ve had a vague idea for a character for a long, long time. I get my ideas from a variety of different things. Sometimes I meet interesting people or read/watch interesting things. A lot of inspiration comes from music, and recently I’ve gotten ideas from poetry as well. (Believe it or not, Pinterest prompts are great too.) Because I haven’t had a lot of time to flesh this idea out, I’m going to give you a very, very brief synopsis with a few different directions I’m going to experiment with.

X___ is a teenage girl from a wealthy family. She doesn’t know the meaning of “to want” because she’s always had what she needed. (This is a generic enough idea.) However, while she’s out with a group of friends one day, she bumps into a young man from her school. He’s relatively unattractive, socially awkward, and not interested in making friends with anyone, but she notices that he has something in common with her which forces her to meet with him again. Slowly, the rich girl falls in love with the poor boy, but the poor boy isn’t interested at all. Plot twist: this doesn’t end up a love story.

As I mentioned, I could take this in several directions. I originally thought about it in a modern setting, but I rarely write in a modern setting. I considered a semi-futuristic setting as well simply because I’d like the opportunity to play around with technology. But regardless, the idea would stay the same.

Phase Three: Appearances and Personality

This is actually the part where I start writing little snippets to experiment with the character. At this point in my planning, I have a fairly general idea of how I want this character to act. I want her to be kind and sheltered rather than entitled and bratty. More than anything, she’s a big blank slate, and I want her to experience the world. My favorite way to hammer out a good personality is to practice writing “what if” scenes. For example…

  • What if X___ got lost and didn’t have any way to get home?
  • What if X___ was late for an important appointment?
  • What if X___ was given the opportunity to use three “rules free” wishes?
  • What if X___ was put in charge of a group project out of the blue?
  • What if X___had to choose between friends and family?

All of these questions help teach me a little something about her personality. Is she a leader? Does she handle stress well? Is she a perfectionist? Is she noble or selfish? After spending some time with her, writing these prompts, I get a clearer sketch of her and finally decide on an appearance. (Considering the origin of her name helps as well. If a name is traditionally Chinese, I’d make her Asian.)

Phase Four: Rinse, Wash, and Repeat

Even after I finish all of this, I’m not done. I usually use my characters many, many times before I have them set and ready to go. Even while I’m writing a story I decide to change things. But that’s the beauty of writing, right? We’re never really completely finished with an idea. For now, I’m going to stick with the name Xahria. But that may change!

W is for West

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It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

“No one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.”
The Princess Bride

West Braveheart. What a name! Believe it or not, his name is supposed to be a little (or a lot) melodramatic. His real name is Wesley Maddox, not exactly something that makes you quake and tremble, and Captain Braveheart has a reputation to uphold. He’s the captain of the Blood Diamond whose crew is known for wrecking havoc upon the general populace. Of course it’s just your usual pillaging and stealing almost exclusively from the rich. They don’t care much for preying on the common folk. Even though West’s crew is a little too rambunctious at times, his reputation keeps them in check. Rumor has it that he drinks the blood of his enemies, and when he can’t get enough of that, he’ll turn on his friends depending on the time of day and position of the moon. Basically, he’s a ticking time bomb.

But Wesley? He fell in love with a servant girl and after a few months of playing around with her found out that he was going to be a father. He stuck around for a few years, leaving the Blood Diamond in the hands of his first mate, Rory. He was living a happy life at first (even if his girlfriend’s boss was a good for nothing rich kid) until he caused a little bit of trouble in the house. (Let’s just say the boss wasn’t a fan of the burly loudmouth that frequented the servants’ quarters.) The lady’s boss wanted him gone, and Wesley decided to flee for the benefit of his girl. He promised to return, but did he? No. As a result, his son grew up without a father and hated him for never being around. Throughout the course of West’s story, he searches for his son and tries to earn his forgiveness without ever revealing his true identity.

I’ve always liked West a great deal. He’s a combination of every pirate movie/book I’ve ever seen/read, but he still seems fairly unique. At one point, I started developing his crew more, and it made me love him even more! I think I’ll most definitely return to him and write about his adventures sometime soon. He sort of learns how to be a father through a surrogate son.

Guys. I’m almost done with this. I’m so proud of myself. I’ve been keeping up with this. I have three more days. THREE MORE.

 

V is for Valen

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Dear readers,

I’m sorry for any unforgivable mistakes in grammar that may be in this blog post. I’m a little behind (if you can’t tell), and I don’t have a lot of time to proofread.

Sincerely,

A senior who just has to make it through finals week

It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

Valen was one of my first characters that I created when my writing started to evolve, and as my writing matured, he got worse. It has happened to me a lot in the past it seems. I start out with a fairly decent idea (even if it isn’t super refined), and it just gets worse as I try to fix it. It’s like when you mess up your eyeliner, and you think to yourself, “If I smudge it just a little bit, I’m sure I can salvage it without having to start over.” Thirty minutes later, not only are you starting over, but you’re still cleaning black smudges off of your forehead and neck. (Who knows how it got there?) Valen is basically screwed up eyeliner, so I’m going to give you a glimpse at the before and after.

Originally, Valen was a ghost. The legend goes that he was his village’s sole protector, and he deserted it in its time of need. But he got scared; we all do. He still ended up dead but with a nice little curse to keep him rooted to his dilapidated village. Fun stuff. He haunts his village, killing off any trespasser no matter what his/her intentions may be. He’s waiting for someone ot put his wrathful spirit to rest.

But then I decided to keep him alive. I gave him a wife and daughter. His wife died in an attack on his village. His daughter didn’t, but he never knew that. He assumed that his family died because he was off projecting others. He lost everything, and it made him bitter. He just kind of became a huge antihero. He eventually finds his daughter, and things get a little better, but he struggles with the idea of being a single father.

I’m not sure if I want to keep him alive or dead. That’s a lot of power to play with. But I kind of want to take the best parts of both of these concepts. There are a lot of directions I could take with him.

U is for Ugori

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It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

Fun fact about this post: I fell behind. I was supposed to draft this week’s posts on Saturday, but I ended up having to travel 50 minutes away to go get fingerprinted for an FBI background check because my itty bitty town doesn’t do fingerprinting during a convenient time. And I spent Sunday cooking for 50 people…so I wrote some posts during class instead of listening to my professors.

tl;dr: I’m late because I spent Saturday at a prison and Sunday at a church, cooking.

Now onto my character of the day…

I’ve always liked the idea of a villain that didn’t know he was  a villain. Imagine doing something all your life only to find out that it’s wrong. Imagine a hero coming out of nowhere and deciding that you have to be stopped at all costs, but you have no idea why. There’s just this person telling you that you’ve been expressing yourself the wrong way all this time. Just think about it. It’s not just a “you’re not supposed to eat with your elbows on the table” kind of moment. It’s someone telling you, “You, good sir or madam, do not know ‘how to life’ correctly.” When people start telling us how to do things, we get pretty upset, right?

Ugori is…a monster. He’s not human. The best way to describe him is as a horned anthropomorphic bipedal beast, but he has the mind of a child. I hesitate to attach a label like “mentally handicapped” to him simply because I’ve never thought too much about how or why he acts like a child.Just imagine the Incredible Hulk mixed with the mind of a kindergartner and the emotional stability of a teenager. In my story, he’s used as muscle for a small time crime lord involved with human trafficking. His boss controls him with fear; Ugori doesn’t want to be abandoned, but the environment he lives and works in isn’t exactly a happy home. He finds things, mostly people, to cling to…and he clings too much. In short, he has unintentionally killed several of his “friends” simply by smothering them.

Ugori definitely needs more development. First, I need to figure out what he is. Then, I need to fit him into my mythos. And after that I can fit him into a larger plot. As he is, he’s simply a passing thought, and I’d like him to be more.