NaNoWriMo Doth Approach

halloween-05

Happy Halloween! 😀 I hope you have a fun and safe night tonight.

NaNoWriMo is tomorrow and it’s time to prep although you should have been prepping for a couple of months, but hey some of us are hardcore procrastinators. 😀 I never decide to do it until the last minute most years and this one is no exception. Here are the tips and tricks I use to stay on track.

It’s Simple Math

If you divide 50,000 words by the 30 days of November you get 1667. It’s sad because I’ve done NaNoWriMo so much I know that number by heart. I participate every year and I’ve never met the 50k goal at the end of the month. Don’t feel bad if you only get 30k or 15k or 5k! It’s 5k more than what you had. If you get more than 1667 while on fire, go for it! If you get ahead in your word count it leaves room for those days you don’t have much time, or any, to write.

Be Prepared

If you’ve been following my blog (or are new!) now’s a good time to go back and look at outlines, character sheets, and world building. Try to have at least a basic outline ready so you can plow through. The more prepared you are the faster that word count will fly. Also check out my hero and villain workshops.

Be Efficient

If you’re busy and you know it clap your hands! Check out my blog on Writing Efficiently for tips on how to make the best of your time. If you only have an hour to pump out those 1667 words make the most use of it.

Be As Social/Anti-Social As You Want

Whether you thrive or dive in the company of others, use it to your advantage. Don’t do well in groups? Become a creature of solitude in the night! Mwa ha ha ha! Don’t forget the cape. But seriously, if you do well in the company of other writers there are NaNoWriMo groups in your area. If there’s not you have an opportunity to start one and meet some fellow writers. If you’re like me and most of your friends who participate are online, you can meet up on Skype or any other free chat program for online write ins.

Sign Up

Sign up on the NaNoWriMo website to get all sorts of goodies. It’ll help you find people in your area doing write ins, show off badges of milestones in your writing, and you get to see progress! Who doesn’t love progress! You get emails to help you stay on track and work on your novel all year round.

Other Posts You May Find Helpful

I’ve been blogging about world building and preparation for nearly a year. Here are a few of my other posts you may find helpful or encouraging.

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion
World Building Part 3: Nation Creation
World Building Part 4: Government
World Building Part 5: Calendar
World Building Part 6: Map Making
World Building Part 7: Culture
World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture
World Building Part 9: Creatures

Character Sheets
Supporting/Minor Characters
Hero Workshop
Villain Workshop

Pantsing Vs Plotting
The Writer’s Cricket: Outlines

How Do I Overcome Writer’s Block?
Writing Efficiently
Writer Resources

Passive Vs Active
Foreshadowing

Take A Deep Breath

It’s a lot of work just to prepare for, much less accomplish, your novel in a month. You don’t have to do all of it and can just start off with something random that blossoms into an amazing story. If it’s how you work, well, that’s how you work! It’s okay if you don’t meet the 50k goal. The important thing is to take the time to try and get started. If you don’t start, there’s nothing to finish. Until next time! 😀

Advertisements

World Building Part 9: Creatures

worldbuildban

Today I thought I would continue the world building series with creatures! We covered geography and other aspects, but not the creatures living within our new worlds.

My suggestion when creating names and places and creatures is this: add some new to the familiar. If a world is too foreign it can be hard to grasp. I’ll use James Cameron’s Avatar as an example. The creatures in the movie have six legs instead of four. Yet, there are animals similar to dogs, elephants, and horses. The familiarity of those creatures parallel to animals from our own world help us fill in the subconscious gap of their role in nature without the movie taking the time to explain them. They took the familiar and modified it to fit the world. We know that elephants travel in families and are strong and smart. You filled in those gaps, subconsciously, for those creatures in the Avatar movies. You can do something similar with new creatures in your world. Or, keep what you know and add something new that would work within that environment. Speaking of…

Environment

This is the number one thing to keep in mind when making new creatures. Would they survive in the environment you place them in? Nothing can jolt a reader out of a story faster than disbelief. If you have a shark living in a desert…you really need to do some explaining on that. And you can! It’s your world do what you like! But if you create something out of the ordinary or it doesn’t make sense in the real world an explanation will save some headache and disbelief. Although, make sure your explanation will do the trick as well. The environment affects how many prey, and in turn predators, you have in the area. If it’s lush and green you’ll have plenty of fauna to hunt.

Evolution

You can make up a creature that has several branches of species living around the world, but those species differ by the environment in which they live. Lets say you have unicorns. A unicorn in the north might have thick fur instead of hair and looks more like a woolly one-horned goat than a majestic creature. Whereas in the desert it could have a horn flat on the end to help it tunnel down into the earth to cool down. In the forest they would have green and black hair and their horn would look closer to a tree branch to help them blend in from the predators. Think of how evolution applies and environmental influence can make creatures different throughout the regions of your world. Assuming they occupy more than one region, because they don’t have to!

Commerce

Is your new animal important to the culture surrounding it? Is it endangered from over hunting? Do people believe its eyes have healing properties? Is its pelt beautiful and rare? Or is it a common creature that no one pays much mind to? How does your new creature affect the economy? Does it affect it at all? Instead of a piece of your animal being valuable, does it do a valuable service? Is it an animal of burden? Is it a guardian or pack animal? What role does your new animal play in society?

Unnatural Introduction

Never rule out human, or humanoid, intervention. Why is your animal in its current environment? Decide whether or not it started out where it is naturally. In our own world we hear of animals being released into the wild. For instance, people who have let their pet pythons go into the everglades because they outgrew their care have caused serious ecological issues. The state of Florida has even issued a culling to try to combat the snakes that don’t belong there naturally. This could happen in your world too. Has your animal been introduced into an environment in which it thrives and yet endangers the other current creature that fits into its role? A predator may eat or starve out other predators.

Select Breeding

This isn’t something to consider just for pedigree, but for trying to repopulate an endangered species. This entirely depends on your new animal’s purpose in the world if there is any. If they’re guardians they might be bred to be bigger and faster. Or if they’re show animals they’ll be bred to have a thicker coat. If they’re animals of burden perhaps family lines with wider shoulders are favored. Keep in mind this usually reflects only those animals who have close ties with the dominant species in the area. We ourselves aren’t concerned with the pedigree of water buffalo, but we’re obsessed with dogs for example. Another important thing to note is mating season. In our natural world few species of animal are capable of mating all year long.

Predator or Prey?

What does your new creature eat? Are they a carnivore, herbivore, or an omnivore? What they eat is determined by their environment. Whether that’s a jungle by the equator or in someone’s home. In addition to figuring out your creature’s food, you need to figure out their digestive system. In times of drought are they able to harvest water from the corpses of prey more easily? Do they have large thick claws to cut open cacti? Do they live off of bugs found beneath the sand? Can they hibernate? If your animal is prey, its life will revolve around not only finding its own food, but to avoid becoming food for another animal. Are they hunted by both humans and other predators?

Biology

After figuring all of the above out, you should be able to paint a rough picture of your creature in your head. What it feeds on affects it’s mouth and teeth and claws, or lack thereof. Where it lives affects its build and coat. Whether or not humans have a vested interest in its future or its assets can determine the population. Now determine if your animal has feathers, or fur, or scales! How many legs? Is it capable of flight or swimming? What are its cognitive abilities? Is it a smart creature? Able to understand commands or nonverbal communication? Can your animal walk bipedal? How fast does it run or swim? How well does it see? Hearing? Smell? How does it hunt for food? Herbivore or otherwise it has to find its food. All of this now comes together to make your new creature.

Mythology

Our living world is rife with culture, religion, and mythology. Where does your creature fit into this? What do your people believe about it? Do they think all bats suck blood? Is a goat in the mountains the source of all evil? Of course the idea of what your creature is or where it derives from will vary by region. It can be considered good luck to some and bad to others. One nation’s symbol of freedom is another’s oppression. Some may consider the animals sacred while others use it as a source of food. Something to consider is your animal may not be prominent in any culture and therefore not mentioned often. It’s up to you how prominent your animal is in the society of the dominant species.

Purpose

The last thing to consider before you’re done is what purpose it serves to include your new animal in your story. Does it drive the plot? Is it for ambiance? Just cause? As I said in the opening paragraph, consider how many foreign creatures you introduce. It can get confusing to a reader and an info dump on each new animal can get tedious. Not saying you can’t have new animals for an exciting new world, but keep it down to a tolerable number or introduce them slowly. Or better yet add on to creatures that we’re all already familiar with to give it a new feeling without sacrificing page volume to explanation.

Until Next Time…

For inspiration watch any nature show. You’ll see how amazing and strange the animals of our own world are. There’s a slew of them on Netflix and Youtube. As always I hope this part of World Building has helped to flesh out your world a little more. If you’re planning on participating in NaNoWriMo now’s as good a time as any to start world building for your new story.

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.

Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!

Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine

Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

Writer Resources

tool-clipart-9ipxag4ieToday I’m not going into how to create a story or even into (gasp!) outlining, but about the physical things and programs I use. And don’t worry, I’m on a strict budget, so most of these things are budget friendly. I’ve upgraded a couple of programs over the years but, I have used and can suggest free/cheaper alternatives.

Index Cards

When I first plan out a book, I don’t actually start with the formal outline in a word processor. I start with specific scenes in mind. First thing I do is write down those scenes on individual index cards. As I fill out more cards I can eventually put them in a specific order and flesh out my story. Then I transfer the rough outline into an outline format in a word processor. I don’t just use index cards for outlining, but also for making any kind of notations and lists. If I’m editing I’ll use index cards to make notes on what needs to be changed in what chapter. It’s not like you have to use index cards, but I prefer them over notes in a notebook because once you’re done you can throw the index cards away and clear off more space from your desk. A notebook you have to, or rather should at least, keep around until it’s used up. Which, I know if you want you could argue that having index cards vs one notebook doesn’t make it better. I also have a drawer dedicated to index cards tucked away for ready use. I don’t know what it is but, index cards really help me focus on one thing at a time instead of looking at a bigger, and more intimidating, picture. You can find index cards for a great price at most office supply places. Including Walmart. I go to Big Lots often and can purchase a pack of 100 for $1.00. Also, Office Max and Office Depot have index cards on sale a lot and I pay .10 for a pack of 100.

Word Perfect/Microsoft word

If you’re a writer then you probably already have a word processor. I used word perfect for years because it came free on my computer. Buying Microsoft word is expensive, but there are certain things you can’t do without it. Such as, formatting your ebook, track changes, and other tools that limited programs such as word perfect can’t do. Not to mention that Word formats are universally accepted. I was given Microsoft word as a gift, but wow what a difference! I was looking into purchasing it anyway when it was given to me. One thing I’ll say, is don’t get the new word programs. I have Word 2010 and it does everything I need it to. The new programs, instead of buying the software once and being done with it, you now pay for a “subscription” of sorts and have to pay yearly. I’m not a big fan of maintenance costs. Word 2010 works for me.

one.com

I like to think that someday I’ll grow up into a full blown website, but for now my blog serves my needs. In the event that I do put up an entire site of my own, I’ll do it at one.com. My friend and fellow author Ann Lavendar uses one.com and after much gushing I went to check it out. For one year of basic service plus a free domain it’s $3.00. Yes, $3.00 for the entire year for your website. You just can’t beat that. The second year it’s $1.89 a month and $13.80 for the .com domain. So even in the second year you’re looking at paying only $36.48 which is oodles cheaper than the one to two hundred dollars other sites charge. After some digging around it seems that not only are they cheap, but their website builder seems easy to use for those of us who aren’t html savvy. And they have live chat!

Scrivner/yWriter6

Scrivner and yWriter6 are both organization programs for writers. I can’t think of a simpler way to put it. Scrivner, whilst fancier, is also the most expensive of the two. I had a trial run of Scrivner and I loved it. However, I didn’t love the $40 price tag.  The good news is yWriter6, while it doesn’t have as many features as Scrivner, is free. So you can download the trial version of Scrivner and determine for yourself if you want to pay the $40 or download yWriter6 for free. Either way, if you don’t like either of them, you don’t have to commit. I think I’ll eventually get Scrivner, but don’t overlook yWriter6. In fact, the version of yWriter I’m familiar with is yWriter5 so you know the developer is making improvements as time goes on. Best of all they’re both developed by other writers.

White/Shower Board

I’m going to have to give my husband credit for this one. White boards can be pretty expensive, especially if you purchase a large size. An alternative to this is to go to your local hardware store (Lowes or Home Depot) and get shower board. Yep, shower board. My husband used to work at Home Depot and he was the one who came up with this. You can buy an 8×4 shower board for about $13-15. Whereas if you buy a 4×6 whiteboard at Office Max/Depot you pay 99$. Things to note about shower board: its finish isn’t as glossy as whiteboard. I have no idea how a dry eraser will work on it. I just use a paper towel. And just like with whiteboard, spraying it with a cleaning solution will really clean it up. We bought my whiteboard in the 8×4 size and had it cut into four pieces at the store for free (we got it at Home Depot, but Lowes will do the same thing) just to fit it into the car. Just be sure to go to the lumber department, that’s where they have the saws. I have various pieces hung in my office and they’re wonderful for writing, keeping notes, making lists and well, anything you could want a whiteboard for.

Binders & Sheet Protectors

As I discussed in both floor plans and character sheets, I keep binders full of information. I have a lot of notes in my computer of course, but a lot are in binders I keep on a shelf next to my desk. Although for the sake of not losing anything I have most things in print and on my hard drive. I place general world notes, character sheets, and floor plans in these binders as well as any outlines I have printed out. The sheet protectors are pretty obvious, they protect my papers as I have a habit of eating/drinking whilst working. Also, if your floor plans or anything else is in pencil, the sheet protectors keep it from smudging on the page. Don’t forget folders to keep things organized and easy to find!

Laser Printer

The laser printer isn’t cheap to start with, but it saves you a ton of money in the long run. I have printed off hundreds of pages from mine and I’m still on the cartridge that came with the printer when it was purchased for me in April of 2015. This is the one I have and I love it. Prints out 17 pages a minute and it’s quiet and smooth. I’ve had a replacement cartridge for it for a while but, the great thing about toner is it doesn’t really dry out. If it sits for years it can compact and only if exposed to heat and humidity. So not only can you go months without printing, but it’s ridiculously cheaper. I paid $10 for the cartridge replacement, but as I said I’m still using the starter cartridge. Something else to consider is that you can print over a thousand pages off of one cartridge.

Book Stands

If you’re a Windows user you may like to work in halves. Snap one word processor to the left and right then work off of your outline there. Not me. I like to have the whole screen filled up with my current document. I also have trouble reading computer screens too, so this may be why. When I work off of an outline I like to have it printed and next to me on the desk. Rewrites are different. I will definitely do side by side documents in that case. For everything else, such as notes or outlines I like to use book stands on my desk. There’s also a chance you have an old novel left over from decades earlier that you only have in print format and you dug it out of the desk drawer. Either way, for using print a book stand is a must. These are the very book stands I have. They are an add on item, which means they’re cheaper, so you will need to include them with another order.

Hard Drive/Usb Drive

Last but not least is my love affair with portable hard drives. They are my backup’s backup. I keep all of my writing and notes and other valuable digital information and photos on my hard drive. In the event of a fire or some other catastrophe I can just grab my small hard drive and have everything I need without worrying about my computer. Of course, I’m not saying risk your life trying to get it, but if it’s possible you can. If you have to evacuate you can slip it in a backpack and still have your work. Also, if you vacation and don’t want to fuss with bringing a computer you know you can work off of it at any computer (although be careful about what computers you work at of course). Or if you work primarily at a desk top but want to take your own laptop on vacation you can work off of your hard drive. I also use it to store things because then my memory on my computer suffers and it keeps old computers working fast for many years. The difference between a portable hard drive and a thumb drive is space. My current portable hard drive is 1TB vs a thumb drive that can hold a few gigabytes. I primarily use my thumb drive to print off items at Office Max or photos at a Walgreens.

Until Next Time…

I hope you find some of these items useful. If you have any resources you’d wish to share, leave them in the comments! I would love to hear what others use to help them chug along the writer’s road. Something I left out of the main content but I still use are multi-colored pens. I don’t know if I truly find them helpful or if they’re just fun. Either way they break up the monotony of blocks of information and make reading easier. I also use multiple colors on the index cards when putting together a rough outline. Sometimes I’ll assign a color to a character so that I know how often they appear. Until next time, keep on keeping on!

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.

Villain Workshop

evil-clipart-evil-clipart-evil-circle-2-mdToday’s villain workshop is going to be similar to the hero workshop I did last week. The questions are basically the same, but since this is the antagonist we’re talking about some of the leading questions will differ. Your villain is the most important character in your novel after the hero. In some cases the most important. It’s critical to put as much depth and detail into your villain as the hero. You can’t be too thorough. Also, let’s not forget that NaNoWriMo is coming up and these workshops can help you prepare. The more prepared you are the faster you’ll get that 50k done.

Purpose

What is the purpose for your villain? Are they there to drive the hero to do things they would otherwise ignore? Is your villain even the main threat or someone to set up blockades for your hero to overcome in preparation for the real threat? Are they merely an avenue through which your story progresses? Why are they there? Why do they exist?

Perception

How do you want others to view your villain? Do they disguise themselves as a well-meaning citizen for a plot twist at the end? Are they hidden away in the dark recesses of the earth where no one even knows of their existence? Do they monologue from atop the local temple letting their presence be known to all and eliminating the element of surprise? Is it even obvious they’re the antagonist? Are they charismatic and popular? A world leader? An outcast? How does your hero and those in the world around them, perceive your baddie? And above all, what do you want your reader to think of them?

death-clipart-22-death_holding_sickleOrigin/Motivation

Where does your villain come from? Sometimes their history and origin story explain why they do the awful things they do. Or perhaps they’re sympathetic. Is their backstory tragic? Were their loved ones massacred by the king’s army and so now they seek revenge? Revenge is a very common drive behind the actions of evil doings. It’s done often, but if done well it’s alright to use the old standard. You could even consider what’s expected of your villain. For instance, in my own book DB:C my main antagonist says revenge because it’s what’s expected of him, but in reality something else entirely drives his actions. What role does society play in your villain’s motivation? Another to consider is evil for the sake of being evil. There is no rhyme or reason. They just do it for the enjoyment of suffering. Another option to consider is perspective. Your villain could be the good guy in his own eyes. She could be the point around which her people rally, but it’s a people or country your hero is on the other side of the fence from. This is what drives your villain to do what they do. It had better be good.

Physical Attributes

Is your villain disfigured and an outcast of society? Is that why they do the things they do? Do their charms and good looks allow them to get away with more than the average bear? Are they intimidating to your hero? Does their presence fill a room with fear? Are they small and underestimated giving them the advantage of surprise? Are they old? Young? Are they average and so witnesses forget them easily making them harder to catch? Do their looks affect how they perceive life or does life affect how they perceive themselves?

Strengths

You could also consider having your villain’s strengths be the opposite of your hero‘s. Is your hero afraid of spiders? Make your villain a spider queen. However, don’t have your villain revolve around your hero either. When that’s the case it feels a little forced. Sometimes villains and heroes are very much alike and that makes it all the more dramatic when they face off. They have similar lives and stories and motivations and it makes it all the more tragic for the villain or hero to fall. Consider having your villain’s strengths as a direct challenge for your hero. Then again they could be completely unrelated.

weakness-clipart-k8496093Weakness

I use the term weakness instead of flaw because usually the villain must be taken down. Consider how it is your hero will accomplish this. What weak spot does the villain have that the hero takes advantage of to defeat them? Of course, for a twist you can always have your villain come out on top to be later taken down by someone else. Your protagonist doesn’t always have to prevail and be the hero. Perhaps your villain has no weakness. Maybe the only way to take them down, or to stop them, is to convince them with words rather than actions.

Morality

As mentioned above, perhaps your villain is the hero of their own story. Consider what their moral alignment is. If they’re an opposing general during a time of war, do they commit war crimes? Do they leave children alone? Do they allow their soldiers to rape and pillage? Or is your villain the source of all evil? Have they no sense of betrayal or care about broken promises? First think of their motivations and fine tune their moral compass around it. If they’re motivated by the death of their own loved ones, they could either spare women and children or be more likely to kill them to have others suffer as they did. It all depends on how you want to portray their origin.

Associates/Family/Friends

It’s unfair to assume villains have no family or friends. It really centers around how you’ve built up your villain thus far. A typical villain is usually alone with henchmen or other followers, but your villain also doesn’t have to be typical. Who’s left in your villain’s life? Are they alone against the world? Do they have supporters? Friends? An enfeebled mother the hero kidnaps as collateral? Is there anyone around the hero can use against them? Are the people who work for them or with them there out of loyalty, love, or fear?

downloadBest/Worst day

As with our heroes, what’s your villain’s best and worst day up to the point of your story’s beginning? Do these days influence their motivation? Why are these days important to them? It doesn’t have to be something adventurous or exciting. It can be that the villain has a tumultuous life and the best day of their life was one where they could be average. A day where they went to work and came home and relaxed with their family.

Until Next Time…

Of course villains and heroes aren’t limited to the questions I’ve presented in these workshops. These questions are merely prompts to get started and to make way for the characters you create. As with our heroes you should answer the why for your villains. Your villains are the yin to your heroes yang. Why not have them as complicated and complete? For every thought, feeling, day, and reality your hero has, why can’t your villain have an opposing or similar experience?

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out in ebook everywhere ebooks are sold.

Hero Workshop

First off, Happy October! My favorite month of the year! Second, I want to talk about hero creation. I’ve already gone over character sheets, but this is more of a workshop done in a similar style to my world building series. No, it’s not a 300 question long interview with your hero. Your hero doesn’t always have to be the main character either, but let’s face it that’s usually the case. The following are in depth questions to answer to make your hero more three dimensional.

Perception

Before heading into any other aspect of building your hero, think of how you want them perceived. By the reader as well as the world around them. Is it pivotal your character is popular? Do you want the reader to be suspicious of them? Untrustworthy narrators in a first person perspective can be exciting when well done. Does the mistrust of all those around your hero make their journey all the more difficult? Why do people, and the readers, perceive your character in this way?

814e9b1447125718682046d2cdc58835Personality

Bubbly? Grumpy? Cheery? No, I’m not naming off all the Care Bears, but personality types. Very simplified personality types. While some of us have a sort of default personality (optimistic, shy, etc) real people don’t fit into the simple mold of a certain type of personality. We’re multi-faceted beings. Though a cheerful person is usually full of sunshine and lollipops, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their cloudy days. Think of your hero’s lot in life. The environment in which they live can sometimes affect their attitude in how they approach things. Does this mean someone who has it hard is always downtrodden? No. Not at all. It’s just something to consider. Think long and hard about your character’s personality, including the bits they may repress because it’s socially unacceptable. Such as, depression, anxiety, etc. Your hero’s personality can affect most of their life. Their approach to and idea of success, their friendships, motivations, and more.

Physical Attributes

Is your hero short? Tall? In shape? Overweight? Don’t have your hero attractive just for the sake of well, attraction. If your hero has a six pack, why? Do they have a rigorous workout routine? The average person doesn’t possess such attributes naturally. I certainly don’t have a six pack. If your hero has amazing flexibility, why? Anything that is out of the ordinary, there’s usually an outlying cause for. Otherwise, why not make her average? Then your hero is more relatable to the reader.

Strengths

As briefly touched on above, what are your hero’s strengths? Of course it doesn’t have to be physical. And a strength for some can be seen as a weakness by others. Imagine Eeyore against the Nothing from The Neverending Story. It wouldn’t affect him. He’d ride on in. In the Swamps of Sadness? He’d march on through. He’s got this. Given the situation, your hero’s strength doesn’t have to be something cliche such as super intelligence or strong muscles. Even tenacity. Perhaps they’re gullible and easy to trust. Some view that as a weakness, others a strength. In the right situation anything can be used as a strength. They accept help from any who offer it, and in turn that help saves the day. Kung Fu Panda is a perfect example of this. What was seen as Po’s weakness by everyone else, turned out to be his strength. It doesn’t have to be typical.

yzgjcfwnrvcfg3quythy_clumsy-meFlaws

Flaws and strengths can be interchangeable, as always, given the situation. Please, please, please don’t make another hero who’s clumsy. There is a theme going around for heroes to be a klutz. Being clumsy isn’t just cute falls and bruises. As a real life klutz, I have giant scars, mended broken bones, dropped expensive phones, and lots of fun medical bills. Being clumsy as a fault is overdone and cliche. When I begin reading and the hero mentions being clumsy I’m immediately put off. Have other flaws, please. A flaw can be the result of your hero’s strengths. Is your hero attractive? Make them vain or quick to judge based on appearances. Are they addicted to something? Do they not value themselves and their insecurities cause problems in relationships and accomplishments? A flaw isn’t necessarily what we think of as a flaw, but rather as an obstacle for the hero to overcome in your story. It’s also more realistic for your hero to have several flaws as do we all.

Moral Alignment

To be honest, when I think of morality I think of D&D’s style of alignment. It’s a good scale to work with as you have nine options. Within each of these can be complications and history. I’ve been playing D&D since I was 14, and so I naturally think of a character’s moral compass in these terms. And just as in D&D, a character’s alignment can change over time due to circumstances and events. Knowing your character’s alignment can help drive their reactions throughout your story.

History

History is more than lineage and where your hero was born. What’s their education? How were they raised? Social status? Love life? What did their parents teach them about how to handle tough situations? If they didn’t have parents, who guided them through tough decisions growing up? Where did they grow up? Were they happy and healthy? Always on edge? If they have a particular set of skills or a physical anomaly how did it happen? How did/does it affect their life now?

k6343300Family

Obvious but still something to consider in depth. How many Freudian episodes of sitcoms and dramas have there been when the main character’s hang ups center around their family? There’s a reason for that. Whether close or estranged, family affects us all. If it’s a lack of it or too much of it. Or just enough. Family is heavy in our culture with countless movies and books centered around the concept and importance of family. Family can include non-biological members of course.

Friends

Don’t just think of who your hero’s friends are, but how the friendship formed in the first place. It doesn’t have to be an epic story or adventure, but something as simple as they both liked the same soup at a festival. Also, what kind of friendship do they have? Is it mutual give and take? Does one use the other? Not all friendships are healthy.

Companions

Traveling companions aren’t always friends. Quite often you have an opposites buddy cop movie or two people on the same side working against each other until the end when they take out the bad guy. Of course your hero may have many friends and family and they thrive when in the company of others. So send them alone. A companion can also be an animal, an insect (Mulan), or a spirit guide in the background. Companions aren’t just there to prop up your hero. They’re there to help each other along. Don’t just have your companions assist your hero, but your hero should assist their companions.

politics-word-cloudPolitical Alignment

If you have a world you have politics. Politics make for a great circumstance to begin a story. Even if they don’t, they can still affect how your hero acts and feels. Just because people are on opposite sides of a political issue, it doesn’t mean one is wrong or one is evil. It just means they disagree. However, this doesn’t keep people from villainizing those on the opposite end of their political spectrum. Although, in some cases, yes the opposition is just evil.

Motivations

The main drive for why your hero embarks on their journey. Why your hero risks life and limb to save the day. All of the points above can influence motivation. Think long and hard about this. It needs to be real and believable. Something so powerful they may die trying to reach their goal. Or something so powerful they’re willing to sacrifice the lives of others to achieve the impossible. In the end this is the single most important piece in your hero’s puzzle. Why does she do what she does?

Best/Worst Day

To round up our hero’s three dimensional build think of the worst and best day of their life leading up to the beginning of your story. Can they narrow it down to one to begin with? Think of your own life. What’s the worst day? What’s the best? Why? Did they affect any decisions in your own life? An important day can decide whether your hero runs towards or away from something. Take time to consider and write down these days. Whether it be the very worst or one of the very worst days of their life. Write a short story from a first person perspective of the day to fully embody your character’s emotion. No one else has to read or see it. It’s for you to use as reference.

Until Next Time…

If you Google, they will come. But seriously, you can find a few dozen character building interviews and sheets up the wazoo. Those can be fun. Really fun. But answering all of those questions can be meaningless unless you know the reason behind them. Cool, their favorite color is red. But why? Ask yourself why as much as you can. Then answer it. It’s true there can be times when it’s, “Just because.” But remember, just because falls short. Just because isn’t satisfying. If it’s important enough to mention to your readers, it’s important enough to put thought into. Important enough to answer the question, why?