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.


  1. This is good and I see a lot of improvement in your writing. You do a great job hooking me into the story and wanting to know more (visions, the promise, silver markings...). Now I'm a visually oriented person and I'd like to get maybe one more sentence in the beginning about what Valeria looks like (note: I have this same issue with my writing). Maybe something like: "...They shared the same dark hair, but the girl was told she had inherited the green tinge in her blue eyes from her father. It made her wonder if she also inherited her... (slender frame, square shoulders, long legs...) from him as well.
    Just a thought. (:

    1. That's a good hint, Elise! I actually could have included a bit more information in that direction, now that I think about it - and make it relevant to another important character of the story.

      Perhaps there will be an update ;)

  2. Thanks for participating! and welcome to the group. The beginning was great, but then I felt it turned into more of an explanation of the story than the character. I had trouble following, but that's probably more because I've been awake for over 24 hours now, having just finished a 12 hour shift as a nurse! I know what I wrote needs improvement too. I'm going to look at Hemingway's character and the one from Elise, and redo it again for myself. It's just a way for us as the writers to get to know the character so we can make them real for others.

    1. Yes, you are right, I put a lot of story in there ... but I wasn't really sure about the rules for this. I know, it didn't seem important if it was a piece out of the story itself (like Elise wrote) or just some text (like you did). But what point in the story should you pick for such a character-sketch? The beginning? The end? Characters usually change a lot during their adventure and I somehow wanted to bring that in. Or is there another way to do it?

    2. I'm still learning too. A character sketch is just a description for yourself to get to know them. I had a link that explained it a little more. It doesn't have to be good writing because it doesn't end up in the book, it's more like just piecing together the personality. I'm going to post a new one next week Thursday- fashioned more like Hemingway. We'll see you then!

  3. Hmm, it did turn into a little bit of a synopsis, but if it helped you flesh out your character then I think it worked. The story, and character sound interesting. Is English your second language? You're very good.

    I didn't get around to posting mine but I'll try next week.

    1. Yes, I'm German, but I prefer to read and write stories in English ;) Please, feel free to tell me whenever I'm using some grammar or phrase wrong!

      I think I'd like to try a character sketch without story parts in it, but for me personally I think I can find more use in this variant.