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Monday, June 30, 2014

Editing with the Elrics: 10 Methods to Make Characters Likeable


Over the winter Holidays, my sister-in-law and I watched Les Miserables. It was her first time seeing the latest film. And when it was over she said, "Every character in that movie made an emotional connection to the audience." She's right. Valjean, Eponine, Cosette, Marius, even Javert--we felt something for all of them.

Later, I was watching this show called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and my brother asked me how it was. "It's getting so crazy," I said. "There are like 12 main characters (I might have exaggerated a bit for effect), and they're all in different battles at the same time. And they all have different goals."

"12? I thought it was just that guy in the red coat who was the main character," he said.

"Well, it started out that way, and then changes as he meets more people."

Not gonna lie. When I started Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and met some of the characters, I wasn't impressed with them. But by the climax of the story, I was in love with all of them! I wanted everyone to win, even though some of their goals completely contradicted each other's. Like my sister-in-law said, by that point, "Every character made an emotional connection to the audience." It's not just the protagonist's story anymore. It's everyone's.

How do you create that? In the writing world, authors often talk about making characters "likeable." We have to like the person before we are going to connect with them on an emotional level.  Here are 10 ways to make your character likeable, with examples of each from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Novel in a Tweet

Instead of a regular post today, I wanted to encourage everyone to sum up your novel (or someone else's) in a tweet, using hashtag #novelinatweet. There isn't any kind of fancy "cause" for this--basically I just wanted to see other writers do this and go through and read them just for fun. We can see what everyone is writing, and maybe add a few books to our reading lists. So take you work-in-progress, or a completed one, or your favorite books (heck, throw in a favorite t.v. show or movie if you want), and see if you can boil it down to less than 140 characters. Extra challenge--see if you can make people want to read it in 140 characters. Alternative challenge: see if you can make it funny.


Also, it doesn't have to stop with Twitter. You can post it up on Facebook, Tumblr, your blog--wherever, but use the same hashtag, the whole point is to stick to the 140 character limit.

Hopefully we'll get some fun tweets coming in. Watch for them here.

Check out my tweets for mine.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Following Your Own Dreams




It seems like every other week someone is telling me what I need to do with my life. I need to move, or get married, or go do this or that. It's usually from wonderful people who have my best interest, but sometimes it's hard to deal with the pressure--intentional or not. It seems like for some people, me being what I am or doing what I'm doing right now isn't good enough. I need to be more. I need to do more. "You know what you should do?" the conversation usually starts.

When there are so many voices and opinions telling me what I should do with my life, I often find myself feeling unsure, confused, and insecure. I question myself and my choices, and I start to assume others know me and my life better than I do. There have been instances where I took their advice and did what they wanted me to do, instead of what I wanted to do. I wish I hadn't.

My dad recently gave me some great insight on the topic. He said, "Remember, those are their dreams for you." He also said, "Remember, it's a compliment that they like you enough to take an interest in you."

In whatever you are pursuing, or wherever you are in life, don't forget to follow your own dreams. Others might have fantastic dreams for you, they might want to see you succeed in a hundred different ways! But don't forget, it's your life--you are the one living it, not them.

Don't get so caught up in others' dreams for you, that you fail to pursue your own!

If I had tried to follow everyone's dreams for me, I probably wouldn't be working as a personal assistant for a New York Times bestselling author or working on my own novel for 3-4 hours a day. I am living my dream. This is what I want to do with my life.

Stay true to what you want to do with yours.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dealing with Melodrama: What it is, How it Works, and How to Get Rid of it




So you're writing your story, and your characters are getting really emotional--yelling, screaming, crying, overreacting. It's turning into a soap opera. And then you stop and wonder, "Is this melodramatic?"

That happened to me once. Thankfully it was just a first draft. 

Melodrama is defined as "exaggerated emotion." Alright. But what exactly is exaggerated emotion? I wondered, how do I know when the emotion is exaggerated? Because my characters are dealing with some emotional situations right now.



Well, I realized melodrama is like this:

Event < Emotional Reaction

The event is less than the emotional reaction of the character, meaning, the character is overreacting, over-emotional to the situation. In my case, my characters were kicking and screaming because another character looked at them funny (okay, it wasn't that bad, but you get the idea). Having someone look at you funny doesn't merit a temper tantrum. 

Looked at you funny < Temper tantrum = Melodrama

I realized I was running into these melodramatic problems because the event wasn't strong enough to hold the story on it's own. The plot wasn't strong enough. So, I was trying to make it better, more interesting, by amplifying my characters' reaction to it. Bad idea.



Instead, I needed to go to the root of the problem, to what elicits emotion: the event. I needed to revamp the plot and make the plot better, so it's stabilized.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cancer, Amsterdam, and Egging with a Blind Man: A Review of The Fault in Our Stars

For the first time, I'm reviewing a book and a movie together! (Because I just finished the book in time for the movie.) I had heard about John Green but hadn't gotten around to reading him, so I needed to fix that. With all I've heard about The Fault in Our Stars, I figured it was a good place to start.

Fiction for Readers


Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. 

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.


Who is it for?

If you're like most people, you can probably guess what's going to happen in the novel and how it's going to end just by glancing at the synopsis. You probably expect someone to die before the last page. You know what kind of story this is, that wicked tear-jerker kind of tale that makes you feel emotionally full and empty at the same time, that gem of realistic fiction that leaves you yearning to live better and love deeper. And yes, yes, it's another cancer story, so what's the big deal?

I'll tell you.

Book Review

So we've seen this story before, right? Right? But we've never seen this story told this way before. It's not sappy. It's not cheesey. One thing I love about this book is how John Green addresses, shreds, and pokes fun of the cliche cancers stories--all while he's actually telling a cancer story. We get to laugh about the cliche that cancer patients "fight valiantly," and "are so strong." John Green breaths such a realistic breath into this story, that it isn't like any cancer story I've read, seen, or heard about. As the main character Hazel states, in a completely different context, "You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice." John Green makes the funny choice too, here and there. But in a way, it's like that humor is what makes the sadness of this story so poignant.



Friday, June 6, 2014

Thoughts on Writing Horror

tha-dickenz asked you: Do you have any tips for writing horror? I absolutely love fear and would like to be able to convey that feeling to readers.

I actually don't have much experience writing straight-up horror, but I have written about horrific creatures in my fantasy stories. I also love playing up the fear aspect. So here's what works for me.

Concept


You really have two options for creating something scary. Either the thing itself is scary, or it's mundane and twisted in a way to make it scary.


The Thing Itself is Scary




In any kind of monster story, the creature itself is scary. People are scared of zombies, aliens, ghosts, and satanic cult leaders. Focus on what makes the "thing" scary. What's scary about a zombie? How it's rotting? How it moves? Or is it the fact it was once a human being? And we can become one? Often what's scary about aliens is that they are so different from us--we don't understand them. So with aliens, it's often the unknown we fear. Some "things" are intelligent and have motives and can plot, so they are scary because they are cunning. Others are scary because they don't have sound reason--you can't predict what they'll do; you can't reason with them.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Writing Tips with Jack Bauer: Stacking and Varying your Conflicts




While a lot of thrillers deal with the action/shoot-em-up conflicts and kind of bypass the rest, 24 manages to squeeze in a variety of other conflicts as well. It's awesome.

Jack and his colleagues not only fight terrorism but have to deal with personal conflicts between coworkers and loved ones. Jack and the president of the United States get identity conflicts. Two characters get in a romantic conflict. Others get into nature conflicts with illness, fatigue, and surgeries. The writers of 24 layer on lots of conflicts and all different kinds of conflict. I love that.

Even the terrorist conflicts vary. Jack has to break someone out of prison. Jack has to work under cover. A worm infects the computers at the Counter Terrorist Unit and so on.


And of course, the conflicts affect each other. They aren't separate plot lines. They overlap and stack on top of one another and intersect in places. Jack's terrorist conflicts affect his personal life and self-image. His personal life and self-image affect his terrorist conflicts. Everything gets weaved into each other.

So try mixing it up in your story. Throw in a romantic conflict in your thriller, an illness in your superhero story, or a question of identity in your comedy piece. Stack them on top of each other. Play with cause and effect. Too often we get stuck on writing one kind of conflict.



One of the most interesting, random conflicts that came up in 24 was when a character brought a baby to the Counter Terrorist Unit. While everyone is working to fight terrorists, there's this baby they have to take care of. Later we find out that the character who brought the baby to work (against work policy of course) isn't even the baby's mother, so now we're trying to figure out who the parents are. So we have all these little baby conflicts going on while Jack's trying to defend the United State of America. It's interesting, and helps keep the show fresh.

Look for opportunities to vary your conflicts. Maybe even try throwing something seemingly random in there that affects the plot, like that baby.