James M. Patrick

The Author

Character Creation
An Overview

Who Are Your Characters?

When you pick up your pen and put it to paper to write a story, what is it exactly you are undertaking? It may sound like a simple question, but the more you think about it, the more complex your answer will become. In simple terms, a story is a series of events narrated for the enjoyment of your reader. It is a fitting, if abstract answer. The real question to consider is not what a story is, but who the story is about.

As a writer, it is far too simple to believe the story we are writing is ours. After all, as the author you are creating everything, therefore the story is yours. Do not fall for this train of thought. As Admiral Ackbar said, “It’s a trap.”

When you dissect a story into its basic element, though the author is telling the story, it is not in fact their story. In fact, the story you are telling belongs to the characters. You may be asking, “How can that be? I am the one creating the character.” That may be true, but in the process of telling their story, your readers are not going to see them as imaginary people created in the mind of an author. They will be seen as real people, with the most trying time of their lives playing out in the words of the pages.

Why Are Characters So Important?

Take a moment and think about some of your favorite books. What is it about those books that make them particularly special to you? What makes them so memorable? Let me give you some examples. Chris and Saul (Brotherhood of the Rose) show the emotions of brotherhood even though they were not blood relatives and the betrayal of their segregate father Elliot; John Clark (Without Remorse) is driven by revenge to hunt down the killers of the woman he loved. Clearly, the common element in those examples is the characters.

When you write a story, you are taking a small element or events from their lives and sharing it with your reader. Typically, those events are going to me the most trying and difficult moments of their lives. You are going to tell their story. Even though as the writer, it comes from your imagination, it is their story. The characters act as the medium between you as the author and creator and your readers. Without strong characters, your well thought out and executed story will simply fall flat to your reader. It takes strong characters to make your story memorable.

What Makes A Strong Character?

As stated earlier, your story normally will not involve a character’s entire life. Typically, the story will begin at a specific point in their lives where the plot begins. The problem is, the lives of your characters do not begin when your plot does. There is an entire life they lived up to that point. They have experiences they faced, they have loved and lost, have faced trials and tribulations, all of which added to who the character is at the time your story picks up.

Strong characters begin with depth. They are more than a name and a physical description. In your mind as the writer, they have to be real. You have to know and understand their history so you know who they are now; they must have their own voice in vocabulary, tempo and sound; and last but not least, they must each be individuals. After all, how boring would a world be if everyone spoke and sounded the same?

How Do I Create Strong Characters?

That is the question. Simply put, it is not a short process nor are there shortcuts. There is the name of course, physical description, a lifetime of experiences which shapes them into who they are when the story begins. There is of course more to it, and rest assured we will get to that over the next few weeks in this blog series. It may seem an arduous task, and it is, but the more you work at it, the easier it becomes. Now that we have a basic understanding of how vital strong and complex characters are, let us explore the process. In the meantime, keep your pens, pencils and computer keys going and write your heart out.

 

Not What We Want, But What We Need to Hear

Over the past few days, there have been cries of unparalleled outrage from the Indie author and publishing community over an egregious Huffington Post blog article titled “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word.” If you have not had the chance to read the article yourself, I recommend you do so before reading the rest of this blog.

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The Writing Process
Final Draft

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After spending weeks, months and in some cases years, the entire writing process has finally reached the final stage. From pre-writing, to your working/first draft, onto your polished draft, to the heart retching editing/proofreading stage and you now have the final draft of your manuscript in your trembling hands. As you scroll through your manuscript, you may think that all of your work is complete, but in actuality, you have only reached the end of phase one, and are about to enter Phase Two. Don’t fall into a false sense of security, there is still more work to do.

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The Writing Process
Part 5
Editing and Proofreading

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Over the past few weeks, we have taken a close look at the full writing process. From prewriting (my personal favorite), to a working draft and finally a polished draft, it was all about creation and enjoyment. Before you can move onto the final draft and a publishable manuscript, it is time to discuss the most painful and least enjoyable step in the process. That’s right, editing and proofreading.

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The Writing Process
Part 4
Polished Draft

The Writing Process – The Polished Draft

In our previous post, we discussed the the working draft of your manuscript. This week we will be discussing the polished draft. This is not the final draft of your manuscript, as there are a few more steps to the progress before we get there. If you picture your first/working draft as a newly mined mineral, the polished draft is where it becomes a gem. That being said, let’s get started.

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The Writing Process
Part 3
Working Draft

Last week we explored the importance of prewriting in the writing process. Once you have completed that step, it is time to write. This week, we will take a look at how the first or working draft actually works. It is important to remember that no two writers have the same process or style, so there is no single catch all that works for all writers. So, what may work for me may not work for someone else. That being said, let’s take a look at how to take full advantage of your first draft.

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The Writing Process
Part 2
Prewriting

Prewriting

 

technology-1095751_640Last week, we discussed an overview of the complete writing process. Now that we all have a better understanding of the process as a whole, we can take an in-depth view of each stage. As I have said previously, no two writers have the same process or style, so there is no single catch all that works for everyone. So, what may work for me may not work for someone else. The process that I will be discussing is what works best for me. I hope that in the end, I will have given you ideas that can be incorporated into your writing process. That being said, let’s jump into the prewriting stage.

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The Writing Process

Most of us are able to think back to our early elementary school days when we were first introduced to the writing process. I am reminded of bubble diagrams, rough drafts with editing symbols that I can no longer recall, and using extra care and time to write as neat a final draft as I could. It was my first introduction to something that would become a lifetime passion.

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I’m Going to be Rich! Right?

Ah yes, the good old days. Like many of you, I can think back to the first time I picked up a pencil and decided that I was going to write a book. My head was filled with the visions of high profile book launches, book signings with lines out the door and hours long waiting times. As the words spilled from me into all those college ruled composition books, I could already hear my phone ringing with agents and publishers offering six figure deals, and film studios getting into bidding wars over who would earn the rights to make motion pictures out of my books. Money, fame, and a life of luxury were just waiting. All I had to do was write.

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