Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Writer’s Guide
Character Sketches Part I

In addition to Word of the Day and Grammar Guide, this site for writers should include items that relate to the artistic side of the craft of writing. And I apologize to anyone who takes offense at the implication that grammar can’t be artsy; I just don’t see it unless we figure out a way to diagram sentences in Blogger.

Sketching out your characters is as important, if not moreso, than sketching out the plot of your story (and, yes, I’ve got an article on storyboarding already in the works). These people carry your plot, after all. If you don’t know them better than you know your best friends, you may have some not-so-pleasant surprises in store when your book gets cookin’. Whether you’re one of those writers who puts all the plot developments down on nice, neat, 3 by 5 notecards, or you write by the seat of your pants, a character with flaws you didn’t know about or some hidden neurosis you didn’t realize was in his or her past will bring production to a halt in a hurry.

The sketching device we’re going to cover in this article is what I like to call “My Top Ten Stressful Moments”. To gear you up for it, practice it on yourself. (It helps.) Get yourself a piece of paper, a pen, and a clock or stopwatch. Give yourself ten minutes to write down on this piece of paper as many life-altering or just plain momentous events that you can think of that have happened in your life. Let me give you a hint: being born is one of them. Ya kinda hafta start with that one. But from there, who knows what’s affected you throughout your life? Maybe some kid beat you up on the playground in first grade and it taught you how to avoid conflict or it taught you how to stand up for yourself. Either way, the “got beat up in first grade” is a momentous event. Have you traveled overseas? Have you graduated from college? Have you witnessed a death? Just write these things down as fast as your fingers will let the pen scribble them down as fast as they come to your mind.

At the end of your ten minutes, re-set the clock or stopwatch for another ten minutes so you can select the top ten of these items. Which ten of these momentous events were really the cream of the crop? Which ones have shaped, molded, formed you into the person you are with the life views (ooh, that phrase is going to be verrrrry important in the next character sketch article) and opinions and values you have? Use these ten minutes to pull those top ten items out and rank them from most important/most influential to least influential.

It’ll be an interesting exercise.

When you’re done (and your brain hurts), get out another sheet of paper. Write your first main character’s name at the top of the page. Now do this exercise for him or her. Ooh, won’t you get to know this character better now? And if you get stuck or you start daydreaming about one of these events, stop the exercise. Grab another piece of paper or open up a file on the computer and explore that event a little more. You can always come back to the “My Top Ten Stressful Moments” for this character later. Do what you need to do to hammer out the momentous events in this character’s past.

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

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Blogger Jeni said...

Putting down on paper, ten life-altering events out of 62 years worth of living huh? And especially when of late it seems every little thing turns into a regular drama, that should be a fun thing to do. Yeah, right! Maybe not fun but necessity. It may be a long time before I get through that process but as soon as I get my nerve up, will have to give it a try.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

Psssst! Jeni! No one will know if you "cheat" and take more than ten minutes to jot down the initial list o' many items. The idea is to practice on yourself to get the gist of the exercise so it's easier to do when you're doing it for your main character(s) and their immediate influencing characters.

Sandy L.
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

8:35 PM  

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