Handwritten Outlines and Character Rendezvous

I rely a lot on outlines. I get a fluttery feeling in my stomach when I’m at the very, very early stages in story creation. It’s awesome.
Writing an outline means something different to everyone. They come in various shapes, in different ways. Calling it an outline in a lot of ways simplifies it to a point that it makes it incorrect to call it an outline at all. In a lot of ways writing a list of scenes and figuring out the flow from a birds eyes view, is writing the book—at the very early stages. Sometimes when I explain my story writing process, I picture clay. Every time I rewrite the story it becomes an outline until eventually I’ve added enough clay that it is finally a book.
(I do most of this by hand in notebooks and then take photos of the handwritten pages which makes transcribing the pages into a word processor super comfortable because the screens can be side by side. I love it. (Sometimes I pretend I’m an explorer figuring out hidden passages.)—seriously.
I usually have the basic concept and handful of my heart on the table before I start my story building process. I’ve often been spinning about the idea for some time and care enough about the characters to explore their lives.
In the early stages, I talk to myself a lot. I write my questions like: Why is she so mad? And, then I answer myself. I do this for a while, and it’s one of my favorite parts. I found that when I truly let unfiltered thoughts down on paper, I discover some of my favorite ideas.
After I talk to myself for a while, I usually have pretty good idea where the story enough to turn my focus toward the characters. I typically start with a character quick-fact-sheet. I then embellish in areas where I’m inspired. You can Google characters profiles or make up your own. I usually do a combination of both.
Then, I write down ideas for three fairly import scenes- I usually make one of this the midpoint. For the first draft, I tend to take the midpoint the end, then go from the beginning to the midpoint.
I reread story structure books and posts that make sense to me. I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s The Secrets of Story Structure. It’s a fantastic resource. I often find the clarity inspiring. It can be implemented at any point in the process. Some use it only to check on their flow and overall arc. I prefer to start focusing on it earlier in the processor
When I first write down character arcs for a story, I do it separate and in color. The color-code system helps me stay balanced and focused in my story telling. In no way does this limit my creativity, it just helps use it to its strengths.

My best advice so far is to listen to yourself as much as possible.

Always By Your Side (Days Captured Series)

We stood there together, finally. Peter’s arms held me close to him. The warmth of Peter’s body brought me so much relief. It has been almost a month since I’ve seen him.I shook images of him being dragged off by the raiders out of my head. I rested my chin on his shoulder, breathing him in.

Tall fences surround us. The darkness of the night almost makes the barriers seem like they’d keep us safe. Then I remembered we are inside with the dangers. We are in their world.

“I can’t believe you found me,” he said. “I wish you hadn’t come inside.”

“How else could I find you?”

“I know.” His arms tighten around me.

“We’ll get out together.” I whispered in his neck.

Something hard presses into the back of my head. A gun.

“Both you put your arms high and slowly turn the hell around!”

My hands tense.

“No. Don’t fight it. Do what they say. Every word.” Peter said with a hushed voice.

Fighting would be the wrong choice. I slowly bring my arms over my head as I turn to face the bandit with the gun.

Peter and I stood side by side. I’m afraid that neither of us will live much longer. Maybe our story will end soon. Eventually everything comes to an end. If anything at all, that point should be clear. Life isn’t forever. Nothing is. Everything is held up with string and sticks.

Peter and I looked right him. A man of average height. His body was in thick padded armor and his head hidden under a large black helmet. Ammunition and grenades hung off his vest and belt. “What are you doing in the supplies dump?”

We said nothing.

“I asked you both a question!”

“We were hungry,” Peter said. His voice came out completely even.

I nodded my head.

“Thieves.” The armed man shook his head. “Two meals a day aren’t enough for you?” He pointed the gun right at me, then quickly pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot tore at my ears. The bullet came right at me, missing my shoulder by half an inch.

“Turn around and hands behind you back,” he said smiling.

We did as he said. One by one our arms were bound. He then hooked our chains on a bar with blades forged to it. The raider led us down into a dark alley. Armed men and woman lined the rooftops. Peter and walked slowly, careful to not make anyone angry.

“Here you go, the lovebird sweet,” The pilferer said as he unlocked a cell door. His stubbled face clenched into a self-pleased grin. He untethered our chains from the battle stick and pushed us into the cell. He locked our cell door and walked away without another glance. Our hands were still bound.

Peter leaned his arm into mine. “At least we are together now. We will figure this out.”

Moving Backward In Time (The Act Of Writing Series)

Scenes come to me in random order. The truth is realizing this, took me some time. But, ideas just aren’t going to be thought of in logical order for any plot. Accepting this fact saved me a lot of frustration. It is what it is, simple as that.

Something came to me a good year or so ago, and only in the last few months did I start to see more. Now, it’s one of my main projects. To be perfectly honest, I have high hopes for it.

I can see now that part of what took me so long to connect to the rest of the story was my idea of what my idea should be was getting in the way. I realized one day while I was listening to Keepsake by State Radio that that scene was the end of the story.

Something I swear by when I’m in the early stations of creation now is writing myself questions in the themed-notebook.

I wrote down: What’s her name?

Then automatically wrote down, Samantha.

Something that I’ve been working on lately is NOT controlling what goes down on paper first. The effect of getting more and more projects under my belt was that I found myself editing way too soon. One can’t edit what isn’t written. I found myself getting bogged down in the first paragraph. Then I made a new cardinal rule for myself, everything I write, I write on paper first. Accepting where I was in the process of the project was a huge stepping stone for me because I started to listen to my instincts as a storyteller first before I brought the bigger picture into it. Learning to pay attention to what my ideas were showing me, single-handily opened the door to juggling multiple projects. Every project has a separate notebook, and then I have a notebook that’s just random ideas and set to-do lists for all my projects—which is clutch.

(Accepting the creative process for what it is.)

Free-writing is just as important has scheduled work sessions and task lists, maybe even more. The process of taking passing ideas, growing into a structured plot, and packaging it for the world to see can be a long, arduous, and at times misleading journey. Characters once created can be tricky. They need to be handled just like the plot, but there is a time and place for that kind of thinking. First the thoughts need room to get weird and off base. The first draft should be raw. Hair needs to be there to be styled, walls need to be built before they are painted, and a story needs to exist before it gets crafted.

All of this takes time. Patience and faith in yourself are the best things you can do for yourself as a writer, oh and write continuously and furiously.

31 Days Without Contact (Part 2)

My heart was pounding in my chest. I could smell their sweat and smoked cigarettes. I held my lips in a tight, unmoving line. I would not make a sound. A distant banter of male voices got came from further down the road. More were coming. Gunshots fired near me. I bit down hard on my bottom lip. The salty taste of blood stung my senses.

The sound of the men close by running away, running toward the gunfire turned my knees into jelly; I was both relieved and terrified. That was my moment. I quickly took all of me and poked my head out of the doorway. My ears led me in the right direction again. Everyone was off. Something was going down. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to think about it. I stared at the rusty, white box truck. The back door had been ripped off. Chains on the lower-half kept the stolen goods from falling out the back. I ran on my toes, keeping my body tucked in. I slipped through the chains. Metal chains knocking into each other broke my silence streak. I don’t worry. Anyone would mistake that for the wind.

When I got inside the truck, I was hit with the smell of death. I swear I could even feel the suffering somehow. I shook off my fear and sadness. I couldn’t slip up. I was too close.

Voices lingered close by. I pressed my body into a small corner of the truck between a wide-screen television and some stacked trunks. The doors to the cab opened and closed. Voices were right on top of me.

“Made out well this trip,” a gruff voice said. The engine roared on.

“The last minute slaughtering was an adding bonus,” a female’s voice responded. More Raiders climbed on the truck, grappling the outside.

The truck was in motion, instantly speeding off. It bumped all around as it drove over a war-destroyed road. Voices talked through static over a radio of some kind. I was not able to make out much of they said. My heart continued to pound in my chest as we drove. A loud screech of the breaks and the truck stopped. The screaming of metal told me the gates were opening. My stomach twisted at the thought of being on the inside of the walls. The smell of blood was starting to make me dizzy. The truck started moving again. The urgency to get out of the truck and run away was alarmingly high. There was no turning back. The screaming metal sounded again, but this time it was behind the truck. The truck sped up, took a sharp right, and then slammed to a stop. Guns fell from an open case. One slid to my foot. The trigger was touching the tip of my boot. I sucked in a heavy breath, bent over and scooped it up. As I tucked it into my skin and belt, opposite where I keep my knife, I pressed my body back into the corner. People with hurried and angry voices circled the truck, seemly all to be in no rush to unload it. They seemed preoccupied with something else. I kept hearing the phrase, Water War. I listened carefully to my surroundings, trying to judge the best I could.

The night had fallen hours ago. I was huddle now on the floor of the truck. At least five Raiders have been close by since we got inside; there hadn’t been a chance to step safely outside. My eyes were getting heavy, and my stomach was aching with emptiness. As I started to drift off, I realized how quiet it was. I carefully peeked around the trunks. The night sky was almost black, and I appeared to be completely alone. Finally.

I carefully stood up and climbed out of the corner. I maneuvered around the items, careful to not make a sound. The chains made the same noise they did the first time, only now I was little more worried about it. When I stepped outside the air was welcomed after so much time in the death-mobile. At least ten other trucks like the one I was in were lined up in a neat, orderly row. Crates and other boxes made isles of intimidating towers. They had taken so much. My stomach felt sick. Getting my bearings was hard. I was able to figure out where the studio in reference to where I am now? I couldn’t imagine it. Honestly, I was fried and so hungry. The rowdy drunken conversation came from the left. Raiders were partying after a long day of doing awful things. I decided it was wise to go in the opposite direction of the armed goons.

I skulked from one row of the boxes to another, taking a moment to look around before moving again. My heart probably won’t stop running into my chest while I’m inside these walls.

I heard the sound of footsteps. I stopped still and held my breath. The footsteps are right behind me. Just as I was about to turn around, a blade pressed against my neck.

“You forget you saw me and you’ll get to live. I don’t want to kill you, but considering you’re just raider scum, I’ll probably forgive myself. eventually.” My heart slowed down at the sound of a voice I’ve been missing so much.

“Peter?” I whispered.

“Holy shit,” he breathes and removes the knife from my throat.

I turn around. Tears fill my eyes. His green eyes beam at me. Bruises covered his once flawless face. I throw my arms around him. His arms tighten around my body. There in his arms, inside the walls with monsters, was the safest I felt since we got separated. “I knew I’d find you,” I said.

“I was on my way to find you,” he whispered in my ear.

I buried my face in his chest, choosing to forget everything else for just a minute. His face was in my hair and my hands held onto his back.

“Shit.” His voice was desperate. Something hard touched the back of my head. The sound of a cocking gun rung in my ears.

*This concludes my Without Contact serial. Look for its companion, Days Captured, which starts next week. Thanks for reading!

The Loss of Everdawn

Sunlight once shone continuously over the Kingdom of Everdawn. Not even the tiniest mouse knew what darkness truly was. Night had yet to find them.

High on the cliff over the Ocean of Trust, a castle proudly sat. Beings of great importance lived within those walls—some got to lead, others only were meant to follow. There was, of course, one exception to that. There was one meant for more.

When the kingdom was young, it was led by King Harold the Fantastic. He was a kind and honest man, who ruled with a fair tone and a wizard’s staff. He married Princess Poppy from the Land of Truths, a collection of islands in the north ocean. This marriage bonded the land in light for a hundred more years. No one thought of the consequences. After all, what could be bad about constant light?

King Harold and the new Queen Poppy had three sons in sixteen seasons. Their hopes were that each boy carried a legacy with them. Sadly, the eldest, a strong and handsome lad, fell in the War of the Plains. The second, who was even stronger and better looking, fell in the War of the Mountains. But, their third son, Prince Elric was the most handsome of the three. Though, nothing about him was a warrior, and he did not share his brother’s goals or strengths. No, Elric was a baker at heart. His views on royalty were different from most. He believed all should be equal in the land of forever daylight. So, when it became his turn to rule, he changed it all by marrying the sweet Sarilene, who worked the market every third day. When those two married, the sun began to shine even brighter, and the rain came even less frequently.

The ground started to crack deep under the kingdom’s dungeons and sewers. The cracks were small and went unnoticed by the people above.

Fifteen season cycles had passed after King Elric, and Queen Sarilene had their one and only child, Dalfinia, a girl with bright yellow hair and a kind heart. The days had grown hotter, and the rain hadn’t shown itself in two seasons. The ponds and lakes were drying up, and the next crop wasn’t growing. The kingdom had begun to spend their riches on food from other plains. King Elric began to worry about the future of his lands.

Delfina’s hair sparkled in the sunlight as she dipped her bare toes in the tide of the Forbidden Coast. All the other bodies of water were nearly dry, yet the Ocean Of Truths was rising. Her parents didn’t trust this, so they forbid everyone from the kingdom from going on the coast. Dalfinia didn’t like to break the rules very much, but she could not bear to stay away. She didn’t care to be indoors or to be still. She spent her childhood running through rainbow meadows with the wood’s wolf pups and hiding from ogres woken from their naps. Her father would say if the wind could be seen it would look a lot like Dalfinia. Every day seemed to involve some kind deed quest or another. For Dalfinia’s path was lined with helping others. Her kindness was so pure and rare; tales began to travel about the princess who was only kind, nothing else.

On the day when her life as she knew it changed forever, her parents were unable to find her for lunch. The midday feast was set down, but the princess never showed. Now, it didn’t take long for the Queen to find herself in a fit of worry, and before the lunch plates were gathered, guards and scouts were sent to find Princess Dalfinia. The King was calmer when it came to matters of the Princess; he was a bit more understanding of her free-spitted ways.

As the Queen was picturing her daughter being carried off by hungry ogres, Princess Dalfinia was scaling the Wall Of Might. Dalfinia’s hair blew in wild circles around her slight body. She reached for a large, jagged stone above her head and to the left. The angry waters of the Forbidden Coast beat on the rocky shores beneath her. She had only one more foot to go, and she should be able to reach the Rockbirds’ nest. She clutched a baby bird close to her chest. Dalfinia had found this bird washed up by her feet. Only Dalfinia would bring the baby back to its mother without thinking of herself. As Dalfinia carefully placed the bird back with its siblings, her eyes caught a glimpse of the OtherCliffs, the kingdom to the west. All that was once green was brown and yellow. Everything was dying. But, why? Sadness pawed at the princess. The mother bird flew in at this point; she’s looking in the same direction as Dalfinia. They both knew that the sunlight had become too much.

* * *

A dark blue and a hearty orange filled the ballroom. The smell of salty bread and sweet puddings filled the air. Usually, Dalfinia would be tapping at the foot for the festivities to begin, but that night she was only frustrated and concerned. After she had returned safely to the castle (by her own doing) the Queen was completely undone and did not want to hear of the dying lands to the west. Her dad, only asked, “Did the crowd of Rockbirds nests look healthy?”

“There was only one father,” Dalfinia had answered this realizing then that there should have been many more nests on the cliffs. She wondered and worried about the missing birds.

Now Dalfinia hung upside down from her mother’s throne in the empty ballroom. The King’s birthday was after all a big day, and even though the Kingdom should have been rationing all of their supplies they didn’t hold back for these festivities. The treats were lavish and the meat plentiful. Young children lined up with flutes and piccolos and were getting ready to perform a particular song for the king. Something deep in Dalfinia’s stomach told her something was wrong. Brown grass and missing birds circled in her head. Since the troubling thoughts were circling rather furiously, she did not notice that her parents and the first-choice-guests entered the room. It wasn’t until the Queen grabbed her foot, did Dalfinia realize she was no longer alone. She sat upright and quickly shifted into her own thrown. The princess chose that moment not to look at her mother in the eye.

Queen Sarilene sat down beside Dalfinia, her father beside her. A question sat on Queen Sarilene’s tongue. Just as it was going to come to light, a trumpet sounded, and the rest of the guests entered the ballroom. The Queen decided it would have to wait until later.

The feast carried on much like they usually do. Good smells, healthy laughter, and voices on top of voices. Dalfinia sat there much quieter than usual, only picking at her turkey leg. The King was in a loud debate about what makes parsnip pie so much better than turnip pie. Across from the royal family, sat four large men that Dalfinia has never seen before. She cast her eyes at the guards, the other villagers, and then her parents. Was Dalfinia the only who noticed these strangers? Just as that question tunneled its way through her head, the main doors flew open. A swirl of sparkles, then a puff of smoke. Three small-winged fairies floated in the large entrance-way.

“Too much of one thing, just too much.” The blue-haired fairy said to the other two.

Everyone in ballroom stood silent and stared.

“Everyone is staring at us you know. You talk to yourself, and people will think you’re crazy. You suppose, what can we do?” The smallest fairy said this. Her hair was short, purple, and poking every-which-way on top of her head.

“Ladies.” The green-headed one said. She then turned to the crowded room. “We came with a warning from the thistle. The sun has been shining on this land for too long. The night needs to come, or this place will cease existing. If that sun burns much longer without a break, this kingdom and all you in it will vanish, just like that.” She snapped her tiny fingers. “All gone.”

The King stood up. “What can be done?”

“The Dark Mountain needs a payment,” Blue said looking at her feet, her voice grim.

“What payment?” The king asked, but it’s possible some say that he already knew the answer.

“Something bright, something pure, something unlike anything else.” The green-headed one said.

King Elric was about to speak when Princess Dalfinia stood up with all the confidence of an entire army. “I will go. It must be me.”

The silence grew deeper and more desperate. Finally the green-haired fairy said in a solemn song, “There will be tests. It can only be one.”

As quickly as they arrived, the fairies were gone.

* * *

That next day, Princess Dalfinia said goodbye to her grief-stricken parents and made her way across the bridge into the village lands. Everyone came out of their storefronts and homes to watch the princess leave, all knowing she will never return to them. The Princess never gave herself permission to look back. Looking back is a side effect of not truly moving forward. Dalfinia didn’t want to do anything that would risk her failing any tests of any kind. She knew that she had to sacrifice herself to the Dark Mountains to save the kingdom from disappearance, and that was what she was going to do. Everyone has their path, destiny all their own written in the stars above. Bringing the night, was Dalfinia’s. She had imagined a long and full life for herself, expecting to be Queen some day and have children of her own. But, she accepted it for it was. She loved her kingdom and the people in it.

The first few days quickly blurred together, and her feet grew sore.  The sadness inevitably found her in moments when she was most tired. She wondered how her world was getting on without her.

The Dark Mountain grew closer as the princess entered a dense forest. As she entered the tree-covered world, she got a sense of what darkness was. The sun still found spaces between the branches, so some light still came in, but this was far more darkness than she had ever seen before. The darkness made her want to make her way through as quick as possible. Every ounce of Dalfinia feared the darkness corners of the forest around her. Fear of darkness was new to her. Then, she realized the real importance of her quest, her fate. The world without contrast won’t thrive. Everyone needs the two sides; the world needs both good and bad.

At the midpoint in the dark woods, Dalfinia heard a whisper and a cough. At first she saw nothing, then a shadow the height of her knee caught her eye. A fox. This fox was smaller than most, but still one should always be cautious around a fox. The fox got closer to the princess, then sat, and spoke. “Do you have water to spare, I’m terribly thirsty.”

Without hesitation Dalfinia reached into her satchel, pulled out her canteen, and offered it to the fox. “You may have the rest,” she said softly.

“What will you drink?” asked the fox. His pointy ears twitched.

“I don’t need to drink anymore,” She replied as she extended her arm further, insisting that the fox take it. The fox did, but the fox was curious.

“Why don’t you need water?” The fox asked. They were walking side by side now, still with no end to the woods in sight.

“I’m going to the Dark Mountain.”

“Why, would you do that?”

“To bring the night to my kingdom.”

“Night is important.”

“This is what I hear.” The princess’s voice in fainter than it was.

“Thank you for the water, and good luck,” the fox said before scampering away.

The princess carried on further when she finally saw a break in the woods and a bright meadow in the far distance, she also saw a wolf stalking something. Dalfinia continued slowly, keeping her eyes on the wolf. Finally, when she got right behind it, she was able to see that wolf had a rabbit in its sights. Just then, Dalfinia stepped on a stick, causing it to break. A loud snap traveled through the small patch of forest the three of them shared. The wolf’s eyes fixed on the girl, and the rabbit ran off without a glance in their direction.

The large gray wolf turned to look at the young and exhausted princess. “You did that on purpose,” the wolf snarled.

“I did no such thing.” Princess Dalfinia continued to walk to the meadow that she was so pleased to see in front of her. She reached into her satchel again and pulled out some trail rations. “You may have the rest. I no longer need food,” she said softly.

“What will you eat?” asked the wolf. His haunches relaxed.

“I don’t need to eat anymore,” She replied as she extended her arm further, insisting that the wolf take it. The wolf did, but the wolf was curious.

“Why don’t you need food?” The wolf asked. They were walking side by side now, the open meadow getting closer to them.

“I’m going to the Dark Mountain.”

“Why, would you do that?”

“To bring the night to my kingdom.”

“Night is important.”

“This is what I hear.” The princess’s voice was just above a whisper.

“Thank you for the food, and good luck,” the wolf said before running off.

The bright, wide-open sky was a relief. Dalfinia even though she was at her weakest state, was happy to be out in the open again. The massive Dark Mountain to the North of her was even closer. Dalfinia knew that today was her last day. She isn’t as scared as she thought she would be. By now, it appears that she’s ready.

* * *

A child’s cry filled the meadow. Dalfinia looked to the direction of the screams. Two children ran toward her. One girl was crying, and one girl was soaking wet.

Dalfinia without hesitation took her cloak and wrapped it around the drenched child.

“Thank you.” The girl said. Her hair as red as roses and her eyes as green as the grass in October. She then looked to her right at the girl crying. This girl was a little younger and a little smaller. Her hair was red like her sisters, but her eyes were a dark brown. “I told you we’d find her. Mom never goes far.” The older of the two spat, as she wrapped herself tightly with Princess Dalfinia’s cloak.

“I’m not your mother.” The princess said, her voice now was only a whisper.

“Sure you are. Maybe not yet, but you will be.” The eldest girl said. Her voice squeaked like a mouse.

“We are getting some tea,” the youngest sang, “come with us, mommy!”

“I can’t and I’m not.”

“Why and why would think so?”

“I’m going to the Dark Mountain.”

“Why, would you do that?”

“To bring the night to my kingdom.”

“Night is important.”

“This is what I hear.” The princess thinks but isn’t able to say. The girls were gone. A thick darkness cast an enormous shadow across the meadow. Dalfinia pulled in a deep breath as she turned to face the mountain.

“Hello,” she said. “I’m here.”

The mountain said nothing back. Its darkness reached out like a helping hand to someone fallen. Clouds came down from the sky, wrapped themselves around her, and brought up to the top of the mountain. The Dark Mountain continued to extend its reach. Dalfinia disappeared into the mists. The sun sighed as it set above Everdawn. As the moon rose, King Elric and Queen Sarilene looked at it with tears. Princess Dalfinia had her legacy, and so did the king.

Day and night took turns and the beautiful kingdom and the lands that surrounded it carried on, as did the story of the one meant for more.

Growing Different Ideas Simultaneously (The Act of Writing Series)

Writing as a full-time gig means, to consistently write, always having multiple projects in the works, and ideally a bunch of ideas cooking in the background. No doubt, this can be a tricky thing to balance.
(I recommend lots of notebooks.)
Seriously! Idea dedicated notebooks have been so clutch. I even have a notebook just for random ideas. (Warning: I need a tote bag to go from one end of my house to the other.) I like to go the fancy notebook route, but composition notebooks work just the same. It can be challenging to know when an idea is ready for more, and how to grow it. I’m sure this is different for every writer, but for me, I need chew on ideas for a while. (Another reason juggling multiple projects is so essential.)
I came to a formula that works pretty well: Usually when a particular scene or character keeps coming back, it’s time to pull it out for further inspection.
I always write on paper first.—this is crucial for me. I need space just to create without bright-colored lines yelling at me and the distractions of the internet lurking in all four corners. I plan first on paper. I draft first on paper. And, I problem solve on paper. A benefit of having to type all that handwritten stream of conciseness is the built-in line-editing and structure reworking. I take pictures of the written pages, pull them up on my computer side-by-side on the screen with an open document and go to town.
I work surrounded by all my notebooks. If I start to blank out on a particular project, I’ll jump on something else. I like to think of it as world jumping.
One thing is for certain, believing in your own work is key. This gig is awesome, but rejection is part of it, for everyone. You need to care for your own back first. Turning raw ideas into published packages is a long and arduous journey, one that is best not to do alone. There is a reason why so maybe people say it; writing is a process. Getting rejected isn’t a reason to beat yourself up or slow down. Everything is a learning experience. No word written down is wasted. Everything you write about your character shines through, everything you accomplish as a writer (successful or not) becomes part of you as a writer.

Finding Fictional Characters and The Breadcrumbs They Leave Behind

“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” -Yousuf Karsh 

Once I have a basic plot concept and a pretty good sense of who my major players are, I start character diving. I can say with a lot of confidence that characters are the game changers, the difference, and what initially pulled us book-lovers in, in the first place.

What would Katherine Patterson’s Bridge to Terabithia be without Leslie Burke, Jess Aaron, and the friendship they shared? How could Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight make us fall without Edward Cullen? Characters are the life-blood in our stories and spending time with them is so important.

This week I’ve started creating character quick fact sheets for my new project and NanoWriMo 2015 entry, A Story Unwritten. I thought I’d share one with you.

Who: Benny Cooper

Age: Five months away from eighteen

Where does he live? In an apartment in the Lower Queen Anne/Belltown area with his Aunt and Uncle. He moves into the apartment across the hall from Samantha in the first act.

Large or small events that happened in his past: His dad didn’t stick around past diapers, so Benny doesn’t have any relationship with him. Benny’s mom died in a tragic bus accident when Benny was only nine. Benny went to live with his dad’s brother and his wife. Not the nicest or most put together couple you’ll ever meet. There was a good reason they never had kids of their own. Benny has mostly been raising himself.

Things that aren’t well-known: A while back, Samantha let Benny go ahead of her in line at the store because he only had one thing. He’s always thought of her a nice since that encounter, even though he never really knew her. They travel in circles that wind up in the same places.

Habits: chewing gum, messes with his hair, plays the guitar, skateboard only once he totaled his car, wears beanies.

Life Style: A bit wild and loose. He feels like he’s somewhere he doesn’t belong, he’s going to wait to figure stuff out until he’s somewhere else more comfortable.

Future Ambitions: To get out of dodge. Counting down the days and working to save money for his own place.

He makes Logos for companies, bands, etc. He does this online. Started with tagging walls.

Has a reputation for being a player, liking to party, and over all trouble if you’re a girl who happens to find him attractive—it’s hard not to.

Has a strong feeling something’s bound to come his way.

Catches the bus to school, but skateboards everywhere else. He’s going to design the new book cafe’s logo.