Sunday, June 17, 2012

Writer's Workshop - characters in a setting (2nd try)

After having got a few helpful hints about how to improve my little first scene for Honey's Writer's Workshop, I wrote two others. They are far shorter, because I have currently visitors and can't really concentrate much. 

Exercise: Place the Fully-Developed Character into a Setting

Both scenes are for "Twisted Paths" again, first we follow Alexander and then Valeria. These little pieces are not necessarily closely connected.

"Hey Alexander! Where have you been all this time? We actually had to pay for our drinks!" It was loud in the tavern, and the three men who greeted him with pats on his back had to shout. He just grinned and ordered a round for them all.
"So what have you been up to, my boy? Do you know that our chap here is getting married in a few days? His landlady, of all skirts in this godforsaken place! It seems she finally wanted some other kind of reward for doing his laundry."
Alexander let the bragging and joking from his friends wash over him. Only the familiar voices let it stand out from the rest of the noise. A nod here and a sound of surprise were enough to keep up the appearance of sufficient attention. It was unlikely they would tell him anything of interest. They were only his excuse to sit in a spot that was ideal to eavesdrop on those who might actually have some valuable information.

It is a warm and sunny day. The numerous smells in the air make Valeria's mouth water and her nose wrinkle at the same time. It has been a long time since her last visit to such a big market. For a moment, she relished the sweet aroma of fruits that were coated in chocolate. A few paces onward, the local speciality was sold: a tiny fish with a hugely revolting odour. Before it could really upset her stomach, she turned into a random direction and pushed through the crowd.
The heat made wearing a shawl or even hood too uncomfortable, and she didn't like the wide straw hats that many people wore here. Alexander had acquired two of them, but Valeria had refused to put it on. It looked ridiculous on her. Especially in contrast to the silver markings on her face. But thankfully he rarely insisted that she dressed in local styles. And luckily this coast-town was filled with a great variety of people.
Hardly anybody gave the seer a second glance as she freed herself from the busy market. Facial tattoos were not uncommon among seafarers and there were far more interesting individuals to stare at. A group of half-naked slaves, hold on a leash by a young boy. Two horses with artificial wings made from ekara feathers pulled an open carriage with some rich folk in it. And at three corners of the big place performed musicians and acrobats. Most people here probably believed they could shape their own future with skill or gold, or they would rather not know of dark times ahead and enjoy this beautiful day. Valeria could feel it. Along with her gift came the ability to sense those who sought what she could give. To her, this special sense was more like a compass to assess if somebody really wanted to know the future she saw, or how much of it.

How do you like it? Any advice what could be improved and how? I know, they might not make much sense or be a bit uninteresting, but I thought this exercise was about placing the character in a rather familiar setting - not one where there is a lot of action and important plot-moments.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Writer's Workshop -characters in a setting

So, the next step of Honey's Writer's Workshop is online at her blog, this time it's about "using" your characters in a setting. Like, after you put some effort in making them believable and interesting, they should do somethin, too.
Again she provided us with some examples, including her own.

On the other hand, thanks to this little exercise, I know have one for each of the three main characters from my Twisted Paths (well, one of them is the villain). They are now far clearer in my mind (and now even in written words) than before.

Exercise: Place the Fully-Developed Character into a Setting

I'd like to do one for each of my characters from Twisted Paths, but I start with one for the villain.
Part of the exercise-idea is to use a setting that is familiar to you, and I always seem to have trouble coming up with one for such purposes. After all, most of my characters live quite different lives than me!
So ... this one was inspired by my trouble getting up this morning ;)

Sleepily and slowly, Rhianne opened her eyes. They felt like being weighed down by invisible fingers.
This particular thought made her sit up faster than she should and look around the room with suddenly wide if still somewhat unfocused eyes. Within a few heartbeats the young woman realized she was alone and that she probably should be more careful with the wine next time.
A groan filled the silence when Rhianne slumped back and buried her face in wild, red curls in a vain attempt to hide from a headache which seemed to come out of nowhere. The smell of smoke and wine - how did that get into her hair? - made her scowl in disgust and annoyance. She needed a bath. 
Instead of  an order, she only managed another groan. 'Well, if I keep on like this, somebody will come in eventually.'
But of course, she would only have to wait until it was time for breakfast or one of the unscheduled visitors of her captors.

Carefully, step by step, Rhianne sat up again and then got out of bed to walk over to the looking glass, tall enough to reflect her whole body.
'I don't know if you bored me deliberately, but this won't happen again!'
The silent vow was encouraged by dark shadows under her eyes and the slightly sick pallor of her skin. Very familiar blue eyes stared back at her with scorn.
Her father would be furious if he even suspected she regarded her captors enough as hosts to let her guard down like this. And then she even sank so low as to drink too much wine because the conversations bored her.
True enough, the Lord of this stronghold made some efforts to seem hospitable, if only her long lasting and uninterrupted presence here were remotely voluntary. They gave her good food and clothes, educated her not unlike one of their own children and enough company to keep her sane. Sometimes even too much company, in fact. She had no choice but regard the maid that helped her sometimes with her hair and clothes as a spy, and suspect a hidden agenda behind every conversation she had with one of the family. The guards never talked much, but she could do well without having watchful eyes on her whenever she left this room.

Rhianne picked up the comb and started to tame her long red curls, which was as impossible as to tame her. But hair can be woven and shaped into a demure fashion, from which it freed itself as soon as the pins were removed. She could do the same. Be a polite and obliging "guest", follow their rules and customs and expectations, master this new-found weakness in her and turn it into another weapon. Until one day she would be released.

I'm not entirely happy with this, but it goes into the direction of what I wanted to write. I'm also not sure how to judge if this exercise was done properly or how to improve. So, please feel free to comment and critique this little piece.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writer's Workshop - building believable characters - final edition

All right, thrice the charm, isn't it? :)
I couldn't help but write another character sketch for Honey's Writer's Workshop and trying a new approach for the first one.
On the other hand, thanks to this little exercise, I know have one for each of the three main characters from my Twisted Paths (well, one of them is the villain). They are now far clearer in my mind (and now even in written words) than before.

This was the task:
Exercise: Do a character sketch. I found this website, click on the word here, with some great suggestions for building characters.

Let me introduce you to the villain of "Twisted Paths of Fate".

Rhianne of Duskandar was born with a fearless heart and the iron determination to get what she wants at any cost, the perfect material of a warrior-princess. She shares the wild mane of red locks with most of her female kin, and also their lush curves and hot temperament. However, she learned the rare skill to control it out of self-preservation. Her eyes are often called sky blue to flatter her, but she herself sees in them the inheritance of her father, reflecting the hue of Duskandar steel. And like that rare metal, Rhianne is able to turn her gaze into a dangerous weapon, just like anything else that is available to her – adapting her behaviour to fit expectations, a seductive swing of her hip, gathering information with keen senses and a sharp mind. Being kept as a hostage since childhood could not quench the fire in her blood, but she is well able to fool her captors and everyone who underestimates her.

And here is once more the main-character, this time with a few more details and less story.

Valeria Temerit has learned to hide her emotions and thoughts behind an unreadable mask at an early age, especially after her mother left her and she became a powerful seer. Not much more than her dark hair reminds her of that family bond, and she guesses that more than a green tinge in her blue eyes are the inheritance of a father she never knew. While growing up, she came to accept that her features and figure would always be rather bony and long than soft and round, not unlike her character. However, confidence in her power and the respect she earns through it always meant much more to her than beauty or being charming. Valeria takes pride in the fine lines and unique patterns that her magic paints in silver all over her skin, knowing they are well earned. The inability to see her own future unless it's connected with another person's fate is only one of the reasons she is devoted to her responsibilities. She also values the delicate balance between the freedom that being a seer grants and the clear lines in which the world unfolds before her eyes. 

The offer still stands, please let me know any comments and critique about this you have on your mind.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Writer's Workshop - building believable characters - another one

After receiving some helpful comments on my first character sketch for Honey's Writer's Workshop and after reading some examples of other workshop-participants, I offer now my second try, but with another character.

This was the task:
Exercise: Do a character sketch. I found this website, click on the word here, with some great suggestions for building characters.

I now took the second main-character of "Twisted Paths of Fate", perhaps I'll do the villain, too.

Alexander Knevash has grown from a shy, pale younger son of a lord into a handsome young man who is more than sure of himself. Brown shoulder-long hair looks only half tamed, just like he has secretly slipped away much farther from his father's grasp than he is aware. The few responsibilities of Alexander allow him to be a wanderer and show little attachment to his home, neither in behaviour nor in appearance, although he likes to take advantage of his royal blood now and then. With his lively brown eyes he has charmed noble ladies at most courts and peasant girls in nearly every country he has visited. He doesn't care that they often are his weakness, too, betraying his emotions and thoughts as if he were an open book. Only few personal secrets are carefully guarded by Alexander, the true extent of the magic he has acquired and the dreams of his heart, which are the motivations for his every move. Any yet, the naive boy isn't completely vanished and can still be blinded by ignorance and lured into a trap.   

Again, I would appreciate comments and critique about this. Does it sound interesting to you? Do you see any flaws? What would you expect to get from a story with him? I tried to leave out anything that sounded like a synopsis this time, did it work or is this worse? Anything else that comes to your mind?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writer's Workshop - building believable characters

Via a post in Elise's blog, I found a Honey's Writer's Workshop in her blog ... you may want to follow the links behind those names and take a look at the very interesting and helpful entries.

I've been busy with a non-writing project during May and then I struggled to get back into writing (and with a cold), so I am very glad to get an opportunity to do some exercises and learn something. Not to mention to have fun with writing again!

This is about creating believable characters, and I believe I actually do need to improve in that field.
Most of the stories I started are rather character-based, instead of plot-based. But I fear one of the reasons why I haven't finished a proper story yet is, because my characters lack some essentials. More often than not I don't know why they ought to do what I want them to do, or they "ruin" my ideas because they do not what they are supposed to. While such surprises might be good, they just aren't really when you as a writer are not up to it and get stranded.

So, lets get started with the first task from Honey:
Exercise: Do a character sketch. I found this website, click on the word here, with some great suggestions for building characters.

Since I had planned to work on "Twisted Paths of Fate" this month, I choose to use it's main-character:

Valeria Temerit was born to a woman who tried to love her, despite having been abandoned by the man who got her pregnant. They shared the same dark hair, but the girl was told she had inherited the green tinge in her blue eyes from her father. Long hours alone or among strangers, while her mother worked to feed them, shaped a courageous, independent character at an early age. Valeria never feared to speak her mind, although she soon learned to be careful of the consequences. So when the first visions came, she startled her mother with uncomfortable questions and eventually found herself promised to a Lord's son and bundled of to become a seer. Accepting fate came easier to her than learning how to distinguish false visions from true ones, but she left her masters as one of the most powerful of her kind. By the time her fiancé came to make her his wife, Valeria's skin was marked with well earned silver markings and she was ready to fulfil the promise that had been made in her name. This bond had always been the only way for her to get a glimpse of her own fate, for it was closely linked with the man who was to be her husband and offered to be her protector. Valeria allowed herself to enjoy this new life, for she knew it would last only a short time. True visions can only be changed by severe sacrifices, and she was glad to finally be able to make a choice about her future herself.

I am actually rather pleased with the result, but I have to admit that I did some brainstorming about this project a few days ago. Before that, this wouldn't have been half as long or interesting, I fear.
Nevertheless, I would appreciate comments and critique about this. Does it sound interesting to you, too? Do you see any flaws? What would you expect to get from a story with her? Anything else that comes to your mind?

Also, I think I should try to make more like this - especially about characters I haven't fleshed out yet that well. And about all those that I think I know, to proof if I really do.