Your Characters Are Lost: 4 Ways to Find Them

Live training this week: learn the secrets of story structure at our free, live training this week only. Learn more and sign up for free here.

This is a guest post by Alicia Rades. Alicia has been freelance writing since 2010 and has developed a strong passion for writing. When she's not writing for clients, you can find her updating her blog at TheWritingRealm.com or working on other writing projects. Alicia recently published her first novel, Where the Darkness Ends.

Close your eyes and imagine you're walking through the streets on a foggy day. The fog is so thick that you can't see anything around you—just your feet on the pavement and the dull gray tint to the haze.

You can hear your feet walking along, and you detect distant voices. Are they calling out to you?

lost characters

Photo by Bhumika Bhatia

Perhaps you notice a break in the clouds for a split second. You think that maybe the fog is dissipating, but as soon as the sun seemed to come, it's gone.

That's what it's like for your characters. If you don't craft them well enough, they remain lost in the fog. Perhaps they have a moment to shine, and maybe they bump into one of your other characters on the street, but then everything becomes hazy again.

How to Fully Bring Your Characters To Life

I'll admit: I'm guilty of losing my characters in the fog. I was so caught up in the story I was telling that I forgot to really look at my characters' personalities. Who are they? What do they want in life? What happened to them to make them this way?

I knew most of the answers to these questions, but I never really listened to my characters to really understand who they were. After considering this, my main character turned into a completely different person. I've grabbed a hold of her hand and I'm slowly leading her out of the fog.

How can you do the same? Let's look at a few methods you can use to find your characters in the haze and fully bring them to life.

1. Put Yourself In Their Shoes

You never really get to know someone until you've been in their shoes. If you can, look for ways to share experiences with them. Is your character a dare devil? Maybe you'll attempt a few adrenaline-pumping activities such as sky diving to really understand what motivates your character.

But maybe you can't share the same experiences. For example, perhaps your character was in a car crash. If you've never been in a serious car crash, you're not going to simply drive yourself into a tree, but you can still visualize it.

Close your eyes and image what you would feel if you got in a car crash. Did your stomach lurch? Did your life flash before your eyes? Where did the pain start when the car came to an abrupt halt, and where did your thoughts turn to?

Perhaps you've already shared similar experiences with your character. Draw on these experiences and take inspiration from your own life. For example, maybe you're a Christian. Make your character Christian. Now you know what they believe in and where their motivation in life lies. You've already been in their shoes; you know where they've been, and you know where they're going, giving them a guided way out of the fog.

2. Look to Their Past

If you're walking through the haze, don't you think it's possible that you're walking in circles? If you really want to find your characters, you need to look at where they've been. Once you do that, you can see where they're going so that you can save them.

Take a look into their past. Don't worry about whether or not each detail pertains to the story. Understand where your character grew up, what the highlights of their life were, and why they're where they are at.

3. Dig Into the Details

If you were a detective trying to find one of your characters, you would get down to every last detail. Don't just look at the surface of your character; really dig deep to understand who they are and where they're going.

Keep digging until there's no questions left unanswered. For example, maybe you're describing their first kiss. You might ask questions like how old they were, who they shared it with, and where they were, but then you should dig even deeper. What events lead up to the kiss? How did it feel for them at the time? What do they think about it now? Do they ever look back on it? Do they wish it went differently? What exactly happened?

Perhaps you won't include all of this information in your story, but it helps you as an author understand your characters better if you're able to answer detailed questions pertaining to their emotions.

4. Don't Stop at One Character

Your story isn't finished until you've discovered all of your characters. Minor characters are a bit easier to find, so you don't have to dig too deep into the details, but you should still consider more about them than their words or appearance when you introduce them in your story.

Maybe one of your characters is so minor that you only mention them in one sentence. You should still look at who they are.

“There was a homeless man digging through the dumpster as I walked down the alley, but he paid no attention to me.”

You should try to understand the homeless man, too. What events occurred in his life to make him homeless? Why is he digging through the garbage? What does he want from life? Is he a shy person? Does he have a family?

Perhaps these questions have no merit to your readers. After all, you won't address them in your story. However, these questions help you paint a better picture in your mind so that you can bring all your characters together in the world you're creating.

PRACTICE

Now I'd like you to practice. For fifteen minutes, write a biography from your character's perspective. Where were they born? What happened to them? How did they evolve into who they are today? What are their likes and dislikes? What are they passionate about? What do they believe in?

Tell their story from their own perspective, and then dig further into the details. If you'd like, share your character's bio in the comment section.

This article is by a guest blogger. Would you like to write for The Write Practice? Check out our guest post guidelines.

Live Training: The Write Structure

Live Training This Week

Join us LIVE: This week, bestselling author Joe Bunting is teaching a live training on how to use story structure to write and publish a bestselling book. Best of all, it’s free! But it’s happening this week only, so sign up now!

52 Comments

  1. Emma Marie

    Wow, brilliant post!

    Reply
  2. James Hall

    It always helps to be reminded to focus on the characters, focus on the characters. It is very easy to play it easy and focus on plot. If the plot doesn’t affect the character, show us something about the character, or reveal a significant piece of information about their past, it stinks.

    ——-

    ‘Twas as it ‘twas that I was born in the heart o’ the Spinespear Mountains, first son to the throne of Ramathion. ‘Twas not a fate I desired. I wished for a life given to adventure and exploration. O, especially explorin’. As a lad, ‘twas my favorite deed to leave out the city and delve into the great unknown. Many fear the unknown, but, for this dwarf, I embraced it.

    Me brother dreaded the unknown. I shared company with the youngin’. We left the city and traversed the darkly catacombs of our dwarven dwellin’. ‘Twas a whiny one of it, so I left him for a moment. If I’d not come back so quickly, methinks he would have died of fear. ‘Twas a trite mean of me, but he had not the heart for being outside the city walls. ‘Twas hardly becomin’ of a dwarf.

    As I drew ever closer to comin’ of age, I found myself within those city walls less and less. Yet, I was pressed ever more to act as heir to the throne. Finally, I told ‘em to shove off, that me brother could have it. With a company of dwarfs, I left Ramathion to found my own place, where I could do as me liked!

    Reply
    • George Wu

      Awesome, definitely helped my post.

      Reply
    • Alicia Rades

      I love the way you talk in the dialect of the time to show the character’s personality.

      Reply
    • Katie Hamer

      Interesting story. Is this part of your Greybo series?

      Reply
      • James Hall

        Yes. This is just some back story. I lack a bit on his part still.

        Reply
    • Claire

      James, I loved this post. The dialogue is superb. You have a gift; one that allows your imagination to soar to a different level. Leaves me wondering if the narrator was able to find his own place.

      Reply
      • James Hall

        Thank you very much. This was a very rough draft toss up. It has taken some practice. 50% of my book is a story told by a dwarf. I narrator half the book in this dialog.

        It is always nice to hear that it is worthwhile.

        The dwarf moves south and founds a whole new dwarven city. I’m considering on writing another whole book just on his adventures. The Adventures of Greybo. It would give me a trilogy.

        Calador: A Dwarven City

        Greybo: A Dwarven Legend
        Origins: A Zenkethian Legacy

        Then, my introductory trilogy will be complete, and I’ll be ready to run with my mainstream trilogy.

        For now though, I’m just going to focus on completing the middle one. 🙂

        Thanks again.

        Reply
        • James Hall

          Then again, I might not. Greybo: A Dwarven Legend is going to be over 600 pages. I may just split it in half.

          Reply
        • Claire

          This is very interesting, James. Trilogies are very popular at the current time, so I’m sure these would be a sure hit for you. Keep up the good work!

          Reply
    • Michael Marsh

      You’re character has a voice and a personality, and it sounds like you have somewhere for him to go and something to do when he gets there.

      Reply
  3. George Wu

    Building on top of the plot for the character who will be a child of an affluent family member:

    This is my reality. Privileged to the select few in this environment. Since
    the age of 7 when I started school, I was expected to sleep unless waken up for
    food or exercise. Otherwise, I have been sleeping my entire life. Now that I am
    18 and going to the best college in the universe. I can finally stop the dreams sleep, eat, and exercise. I can finally sleep for the
    sake of sleeping. I now will be interact with fellow lower class citizens attending the same public institution, also another chance to experience the reality that I envisioned in my dream

    Every day I labor over the academic prowess within the dream
    world, my instructors and classmates will invade my dreams to set me up in an
    educational environment to collaborate and study relentlessly. I never know when my dream will be interrupted for academic learning. Even
    though I know that in the dream world, time passes a 1/10 of the time in the real
    world. Imagine my 11 years of studying.

    Everything I did in the dream world had virtually no consequences. I remember the time I fought to kill this guy in my class simply because I he stole the virtual girl I wanted to date. I have never met any of my classmates in person, but through virtual dream world. We even had an exercise to tamper with
    biological weapons that one time eradicated the entire class. Like myself, I believe everyone at the time awoke immediately from that exercise.

    Taking everything I learned and prepped for the past 11 years in the dream world, equivalent to 110 real human years. I really wonder what will happen when I utilize what I have learned to the real world? I guess I will find out when I start my first day of school tomorrow at University of Intergalactic Foundation, KOI-172.02.

    Reply
    • Alicia Rades

      Your story seems really interesting.

      Reply
    • James Hall

      I wonder where you go with this. Your story is interesting.

      It is interesting to think of a place without consequences. But then, how would you get a disobedient student to behave?

      Reply
  4. jdstone

    The villain in my current short story is Brock Chaffin. He is grizzly bear mean with icy blood running through his veins. It’s told that, at last count, fifteen men have been sent to judgment at his hand. He killed his own brother because he braced him and challenged his authority. But he wasn’t always cruel. He wasn’t born to evil. His mother cried and prayed for him. He had opportunities to go a different way but the War Between the States came along and ripped Tennessee apart, and he was a Tennessean through and through. He was southern and fought for the Confederacy. But Tennessee was divided in its sympathies, so much so that several cities tried to secede from the state. When Brock came back from the war, it rankled him that Tennessee had become, in almost every sense of the word, Yankee. A way of life was gone. What he had fought for and bled for was forever gone. He was a man with a grudge. He couldn’t abide it.

    Too much booze gave him the edge he thought he needed one night and, feeling bullet proof, picked a fight with a simple saloon patron who happened to be a Yankee. His first shot was true and laid the poor soul to rest. If he had stopped there, he might have had a fighting chance at a normal life. However, in his discriminate rage he just kept firing his pistol aimlessly and killed three more innocent men. Realizing what happened, he held the rest of the room off and backed out the door. No turning back now. He was a wanted man.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      I thought he seemed like a pretty awesome grizzly bear, until I realized he was human.

      Nice back story development.

      Reply
  5. jdstone

    Thank you Alicia. Very helpful post. Your post helped me pull the villain out of the fog. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. Claire

    I was born one August morning on a sun-drenched tropical island in the Caribbean. I recall my early childhood as a carefree and happy one, until political turmoil ended my idyllic life there.

    My parents were forced to leave the island, and of course, at the time. I had no say in the matter. We left our family and everything we owned behind. I was very young, and at the time, it seemed like an adventure to me. In retrospect, I understood how difficult that departure was for my parents, for we never saw those family members ever again.

    My parents muddled through in a different country with a different culture, but always making sure that I was raised in the traditional ways familiar to them. They always made sure that I did not relegate my own culture despite what I was exposed to. As a grown-up, I am grateful for that.

    They made sure that I got a proper education and the dream of seeing their only child graduate from college became a dream come true for them. As the passage of time continued, I became more and more aware that I still kept a lot of the traditional values inculcated in me by my parents deeply rooted within me, for as the old addage goes, “You can take the girl out of the island, but you can’t take the island out of the girl” holds true for me.

    Reply
    • Alicia Rades

      I like how you include, “As a grown-up, I am grateful for that.” When you show how your character feels, it makes them come to life easier.

      Reply
    • Katie Hamer

      You give a good sense of what it’s like to be uprooted from your home, to go from a sense of carefree security, to struggling to understand the customs of a new different country. I’d love it know more about the culture your character left behind.

      Reply
      • Claire

        Thanks for your comments, Katie. I’m glad you got the sense of what it feels like to be uprooted from familiar surroundings from my description since that was what I was aiming for. I don’t have much more on this story since I wrote it on the fly as part of the exercise.

        I did read your post on the story of Tommy and Suzy and found it so easy flowing and interesting, but very curious as to what happened between them and why he was so hesitant with regard to calling her. Do tell!

        Reply
        • Katie Hamer

          Ah Claire, this is a work in progress. I shall reveal all in further instalments. 😉

          Reply
          • Claire

            Well, then, Katie, looking forward to them!

          • Katie Hamer

            Hi Claire! I know you were curious to know more about my story of Tommy and Suzy. If you would like to read further, you can find my second instalment here:

            https://thewritepractice.com/your-muse/#comment-1066457416

            If you read it, please let me know what you think.

            Thanks for your interest
            Katie

    • James Hall

      I love how much the character still holds on to and cherishes her birthplace. I could tell the transition was very hard for the character.

      Nice attention to the details of leaving the country of one’s birth.

      Reply
      • Claire

        James, thanks for your comments. Change is never easy under any circumstances, but being uprooted from one’s homeland always leaves an indelible mark in one’s heart. Thanks again.

        Reply
        • James Hall

          You’re so much nicer to your characters. One of my characters not only sees his parents die before his eyes, but his whole home town is ransacked and burnt to the ground. No survivors. Well, except himself.

          Your welcome, and thanks for reading mine. Reciprocity is a nice thing.

          By the way, I posted again up above. 😉

          Reply
    • Michael Marsh

      Sounds like you have a good handle on your character so you can both follow and guide her through the story.

      Reply
      • Claire

        Thanks for your comment, Michael. I’ll keep this in mind when I endeavor to polish up and expand this story.

        Reply
  7. Hannah

    Great article! I had a great time doing this practice, and I definitely feel a lot closer to my main character. I would post my practice on here, except for the fact I may have cheated a little and spent way more than 15mins on it!

    Reply
    • Alicia Rades

      That’s great. Sometimes characters need more than 15 minutes to figure out!

      Reply
    • Katie Hamer

      Personally don’t think it matters how long you spent on your practice, so long as it gets you writing. I’d love to see what you wrote!

      Reply
      • Hannah

        Haha, I guess so. Well, it is super long, but here it goes!

        My name is Kiera. At least that’s what I call myself now. It
        means ‘courage’ in some long lost, dead language. I like that, it makes me feel braver. I started off my life as Sacha, which I guess probably means ‘no good daughter who brings shame on her whole family’. I’m not her any more. Sacha, or I suppose Princess Sacha of Nanor, was born in a gilded chamber bigger that most houses in the Palace of Light as the fifth child, and third daughter of the King Fenir and Queen Marline of Nanor (may the Gods forever bless them). Kiera was born running for her life in the slums of Termain with half an army on her tail, a thousand leagues from Nanor.

        In retrospect, I suppose life started going wrong for Sacha
        when she was about seven or eight, when she started doing strange things. Like talking to dead people or hurling her sister across the room, without touching her, during an argument. That probably didn’t help her case. The hushed words in angry tones at night that had been routine to her became shouts, which became screams and finally into shrieks of terror. And then one night it was silent. Mother Appeared to me that night. We sat cross legged on the bed and she tried stroking my hair, but her misty hand slipped through my head. We both cried bitter tears. She didn’t have long before someone came to Collect her, so she just told me what was important. Run, she said. As far away as you can. She didn’t tell me why. I watched with morbid interest, waiting to see who would come for her, but I didn’t recognise him when he arrived. Mother wouldn’t tell me either, but she seemed pleased to see him.

        As soon as they had faded away into the night, I leapt off
        my bed and set about packing a bag. My favourite bear, a silver spoon, my hair brush with peals inlayed on the back, no change of clothes nor any food. I jammed my feet into my favourite dancing slippers, despite the fact they were getting too small and squashing my toes, and crept out of my room. I hadn’t even made it to the end of the hallway before father caught me. He lifted me with his Power and held it wrapped around me so I couldn’t move. It was so scared I emptied my bladder on the floor beneath me. I would have been far more scared if I knew what was going to happen to me.

        Sacha died at the Sanctuary. It wasn’t when they dragged her
        in kicking and crying, or when they shaved off her beautiful auburn hair and tattooed blue swirls on her chest. It wasn’t when they told her this Thing inside her was a hideous Monster that must be controlled or she would die, despite the fact she could see the Warders using it every day. It wasn’t even when the man with the black hair came to visit them and stole the Monster from her body, leaving her feeling weak and lifeless for days. It was the fear, as she lay in bed every night, staring at the sagging ceiling, listening to the heavy footsteps of the guards and the Warders as they paced around the many cots in
        the room, praying they would not stop at hers. To kick and fight was to be beaten within an inch of her life, so for years she cried. Cried for the pain, for the shame, for the loss. Then one day, she stopped. She stopped feeling anything. That was when Sacha died.

        I guess it was Lucie that changed everything. She was a lot
        older than most girls when she was brought in, even older than I who had been there for more years than I remembered, and she fought harder than I have ever seen. Lashing out with her Monster, she knocked over anyone in her path. They had to drug her and drag her to her cot, the one next to my own, before tying her down with the Power. That night I watched two guards and one Warder climb into her cot with her unconscious body. The next morning I awoke in the early hours to her wracking sobs. Driven by some desire I didn’t really know at the
        time, but I’ve come to recognise as the want to comfort, I slid out of my cot and into hers. She froze for a moment before wrapping me in her arms. There we stayed until the rooster crowed.

        Over the next few months, Lucie became as close to a friend
        as I have ever known. During the day, we were strangers, but at night, we would wait until the footsteps had stopped, and I would climb into her bed and under the covers she would show me amazing wonders I had never seen before. She showed me how to use my Monster instead of just containing it, just like the Warders did. I remember watching in fascination as she plucked one of those white-blonde hairs from her head and made it burst into flames. I lived for our nightly meetings.

        One day, she whispered to me over dinner not to come to her
        that day. It was dangerous, she told me. Crestfallen, I nodded, hurt by this sudden secrecy. That night, I waited, listening to the sound of men’s footsteps and not wondering if it were me they were coming to visit. Not long after footfalls were replaced by the muffled sobs of some of the newer girls, a great ball of light exploded in the room, illuminating the shocked faced of girls and men alike. I don’t recall much of what happened in the confusion, but the next thing I knew I was showered with glass and debris, four men were lying dead on the floor and Lucie was nowhere to be seen. I never saw her again. That hurt more than the brutal questioning we endured as they tried to find out where she had gone. That was the day I decided I needed to live again.

        I would love to go back and change the past. Perhaps I would
        never have entered Lucie’s life that night, never known there was more to life than merely existing. But wishing is for children, and the past is set in stone. The future on the other hand, I might be able to do something about. Every night my nightmares rage in my head, the faces of the girls I left behind. I need to go back, to rescue them too. I won’t abandon them like Lucie abandoned me. It’s hard to form a plan when you’re always on the run, though. I dream of a home, somewhere I can stay for more than a few days, I dream of having enough food to eat, but my dreams need to be put on hold so I can stay alive long enough to rescue them. We all need something to give our lives purpose.

        Reply
        • Katie Hamer

          Wow, you do have a lot of material to work on here. There were a few things that puzzled me. Why is Kiera on the run? Why did she change her name? You need to take more care, slipping between first and third person view points, as it gets a little confusing at times. Other than that I think you have the kernel of an idea which will come alive with the addition of dialog.

          Reply
          • Hannah

            Katie, she’s on the run because she escaped (like Lucie), and she has to change her name because she is on the run, and also symbolically. The slipping between first and third person was intentional. She talks about her life when she was ‘Sacha’ and if it happened to someone else, because she doesn’t consider herself the same person any more.

          • Katie Hamer

            Sounds like you have some very well formed ideas. I do hope you take them further. I’d love to see what happens if Kiera bumps into Lucie on the run!

        • James Hall

          Interesting story. I think dialog will strengthen it. You might have to have a better way of setting off Kiera vs Sacha, but it may work as the reader gets used to it.

          I wonder what the capabilities of the powers are, and why her own father submitted to a prison-like place.

          Reply
  8. Katie Hamer

    I found this prompt very helpful and thought provoking. I’m posting an exercise that I did in response to a writing prompt from Joe Bunting’s Let’s Write a Short Story, about Tommy and Suzy:

    Tommy thought about Suzy all the time. He thought about calling her five times a day, every day. He’d stood with his mobile in his hand, ready to dial. Every time his courage had failed him. The words swam in his head. The ones he desperately wanted to say, since that day when he last saw her.

    He was thinking about her again as he took a walk through the park where they had met up, every Tuesday without fail for nearly a year. He felt haunted, the crisp winter air biting at this skin, also made it hard for him to breathe. He should have been enchanted by the landscape, transformed into a sugar coated fairy land. But he felt numb to the core. He walked along one of the main footpaths, lined with old knotted oak trees which formed skeletal silhouettes in the dim winter sun. Their shadows were cast long and wide, so that the sunlight appeared to flicker.

    Tommy wondered if Suzy would recognise the park, if she saw it now, in the depths of winter. It looked different from how it was when he last saw her there, on that fateful day. They had arranged to meet at the Buddhist Pagoda, at the centre of the park. He caught a glimpse of it on the path ahead, glittering in the rising sun and decided to make his way over there. As the trees cleared, and the Pagoda came into view, he was sure he saw a familiar figure stood beside it, shivering, in a petite winter coat. His heart beat a little faster.

    He thought back to when they first met. Tommy and Suzy had worked in the same office block, but didn’t know each other. The place was huge, a buzz of activity like a hive of bees. He was a successful manager and his future had seemed certain. Then came the downturn.

    He’d lost his job and had to sign on, an experience that he found to be deeply demoralising and frustrating. His back to work advisor had looked down her nose at him. She informed him that, as he had been out of the job market for a while, he was to attend a seminar in interview techniques. It felt as if ten years of hard graft counted for nothing.

    The day of the seminar soon came round. Tommy was the last to arrive at the venue. He entered an austere room. A young woman in a black trouser suit was stood in front of a flip chart, confronting a sceptical audience of strangers. They sat in a circle, like a meeting of alcoholics anonymous.

    “You must be…” looking down at her list, “Tommy. Take a seat.”

    Tommy sat in the last available chair. He noted the woman sat next to him. She looked vaguely familiar. He noted her startlingly blue eyes, and cheeks as rosy and round as New England apples. She was beaming a huge smile, revealing pearly white teeth, so rarely seen in the UK.

    “We’re going to start with an icebreaker. I want you all in turn to tell us who you are, where you’re from, what work you’ve been doing, and something unusual that no one would ever guess.”

    Each one of them in turn introduced themselves. There were a couple of people who had been made redundant from a local independent shop that had just folded, there was a bald headed guy with tattoos, who had been laid off by a construction firm, there were a few who had seemingly never worked, who’d been on god knows how many back to work seminars, with probably no intention of ever finding work. Then it came to the stranger next to him.

    “Hi, I’m Suzy,” she said, in a voice that could melt toffee. “I’m a New Yorker. I always dreamed of living in your beautiful city. I moved here three years ago to work for Credit Anglais. I was only meant to stay for a six month secondment, but they kept asking me to stay on. Just last week, they informed me that they’re terminating my contract. I’m so hoping that I can find another job here so that I can stay in England. My hobbies are walking and hiking. I’ve walked the Grand Canyon. One day, I hope to climb Everest. I’m hoping to combat smaller mountains first though.”

    Then it was Tommy’s turn.

    “Hi, I’m Tommy. I’ve just lost my job after ten years of working as an accountant. I too, was employed by Credit Anglais.” He turned to Suzy and smiled. “I also enjoy walking. It helps to clear my head. Although when it comes to hiking goals, I’m nowhere near as ambitious as Suzy here.”

    The advisor at the front said, “Well, it seems that some of you have things in common. It’s tough finding a job in this dog eat dog world. I would suggest you keep in touch with each other for motivation and moral support. You’re going to need it.”

    There wasn’t anything new in the seminar that Tommy hadn’t heard before. He spent the whole time looking at Suzy, and they giggled at each other, like naughty school children, who were sure that they were going to be found out for passing notes in class.

    At the end, Suzy said, “I’d like to see you again. Perhaps we could meet up, do that moral support thing.”

    “I go walking in Battersea Park. How about we meet there next Tuesday at the Albert Bridge Road entrance.”

    “Oh, I just love Battersea Park.” Suzy said. “It would be great to escape the flat and the job search for a few hours. I’m an early bird. How about meeting at 8am sharp. It’ll be great to have someone to meet up with, to see how we’re doing. I still don’t know many people here. I’ve spent most of my time working since I moved here from the Big Apple.”

    Suzy handed Tommy a crumpled pink post it note. It had her name on it, Suzy George, and her mobile number.

    “Just in case I’m late. Don’t call me otherwise.” she said.

    Tommy slipped the note in his coat pocket, and they went their separate ways through the London drizzle.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      I liked how this was told. You’ve done a good job at showing the character’s motivations and situations. I feel like more characterization might do some more good, but this might come later.

      Also, you need to use hyphens. You missed several of these which was quite confusing at times. I could probably use a good review of them, too.
      sugar-coated
      bald-headed
      dog-eat-dog

      Reply
      • Katie Hamer

        Thanks for your constructive and encouraging feedback, James. I have been giving the points you raised about additional characterisation and hyphenation much thought.

        Where characterisation is concerned, I’m thinking I will spend some time working out what makes them unique, and therefore memorable. I guess it’s in the small details, as RW once said.

        As for hyphenation – I’d agree I’ve got a blind spot with that. I must have skipped that particular lesson at school 😉

        Reply
        • James Hall

          A sizable chunk. I would love to.

          If you don’t mind, I think you would enjoy these two small short stories I wrote:

          Broken

          The Unforgiven

          This blog has lots of stuff I’ve written, actually, unless it is under the reading or a reblog, I wrote it. Feel free to look around as you like and as time permits.

          Thanks!

          Reply
  9. James Hall

    This topic deserves two posts

    —–

    I was born Draghan Dunwar of Zenthia. I was born into a race known as the Zen-Ki. They resembled humansss in every fashion, but were known for their magical traitsss. They were a hidden culture of people and believed that the blood of Zenkirowan, one of the dragonsss that sssacrificed himself during the First Age of Woe, ran through their veinsss. Their religion and their every deed were based upon this ssselflesss dragon.

    As a child of five yearsss, I thought thisss all sssounded quite grand. I was of a race who led humansss, elvesss, and dwarvesss from dark timesss to light. I dreamt of the world and itsss people as idyllic. Little wrong happened in the world, and it was all due to the power and persistence of the Zen-Ki race. We were the sssuperior race, watching over the other racesss as an elder sssibling. We held powersss beyond their imagination.

    I ssschooled for religion and learned how I might ssshape the thoughtsss and actionsss of the other racesss. I learned the difference of right and wrong. I learned to pray to Zenkirowan’s god for ssstrength and fulfillment. Indeed, mossst of the power the Zen-Ki had, they believed came from Yakena, The Great Creator.

    Sssince birth, I was different. To the ssschools of magic I went. It was there that I learned of the true powersss of the Zen-Ki. With a natural attribution for magic, I sssoon felt I was part of a greater cause.

    My mother and father were the kindessst people I’d ever met. My father was an avid believer that living with one of the other racesss would yield even greater resultsss than the ssspells and random encountersss the Zen-Ki often used. The Zen-Ki believed that prayer would help the less guided racesss and that interaction was detrimental to all racesss.

    The Zen-Ki did not follow his belief, believing that the racesss would become hostile towards thingsss they could not underssstand. My father, being the noble man he wasss, left out that sssecret ssstronghold to prove his theory without ssso much as a helping hand from the ruling Zen-Ki. Mother and I went down with him to dwell amongst men.

    It was then that I learned humansss were far from the idealized concept I had held of them. Instead, I sssaw a race given to the limitsss of life and absorbed with the ssself. I looked upon their greedy leaders with disdain and their barbaric tendenciesss with disgust. But, father travelled on, until we found a sssmall village to reside in. There we lived for a few yearsss.

    There, in that village of Penope, I’ve the greatest of my memoriesss. I would ssspend much of the day helping father in guiding the humansss, improving their livesss, and giving them adviccce. I helped their cropsss to grow by calling to the rainsss, and defending them from an unkind wind.

    Though the humansss accepted usss, I always felt as though, deep down, they were unsure of usss. Though they liked our abilitiesss, they distrusted them as well.

    When those of the village worried of war, we travelled to the castle of the kingdom. Through our workingsss, we began to convince the king to withdraw from the war and call a truce.

    At that time, I linked with a receptacle and called to the elder’sss of Zen-Ki daily. I requested they assist my father by calming the other combatantsss. Each time, they refused on the grounds that such interactionsss were not to be.

    Onccce we had influenced the kingdom to not attack, my parentsss returned to Penope, to collect up suppliesss before they journeyed further north toward the kingdom of Gerrod. I, on the other hand, headed back to Zenthia to convinccce the councccil of the coming war and our ability to prevent it. I was a lad of fifteen, and quite able to hold my own.

    I entered the citadel and ssspoke to the council of Zenthia, but they would not lisssten to my tale. Furthermore, they imprisoned me for treassson.

    They put me in a cccell and questioned me of the whereabouts of my parentsss. I told them nothing. They told me that they would not ssset me free until judgment had been passed. From my cell window I ssstared to the north, to Penope. I prayed that mother and father could ssstop the war and reprove the councccil.

    Yet, the world was not ssso kind. Day by day, I watched in horror as the villagesss of the kingdom burnt to the ground. My parentsss must have been late in the coming, and could not ssstop the war. Even Penope burnt to the ground. Then, I awoke one morning to ssscreamsss below my barred windowsss.

    Looking down, I sssaw my parentssss. They beat upon the gatesss and cried out to be let in, for the humansss were in hot pursssuit to ssslay them. The council refusssed to open the doorsss to them, naming them traitorsss and treasonousss. I prayed to Yakena to forgive usss and ssspare my parentsss. Inssstead,

    I watched them cut down before the gatesss of my own cccity, murdered without a defensss. The whole of the cccitadel watched, unssseen by the humansss. The councccil made an example of them, punishment to hereticsss.

    I cursssed my people, the Zen-Ki. Hypocritesss, for they knew nothing of sssacrificccing the ssself. I cursssed Yakena, my god, for his allowing it. I disbelieved him. My anger ssswelled within me. I wished only revenge on those wicked humansss, for their violent waysss, and on the Zen-Ki, the people of Yakena.

    That is when Azzura, the Lord of Vengeance, ssspoke to me. He promisssed if to him I would pray, he could give me power to do as I desired. When I asked him for power, he gave unto me a body that coursssed with venomousss blood. My body transssformed into a ssscaly beauty before my eyesss and my handsss became long and ssslender clawsss. I concentrated my anger upon the grated windowss and collapsssed itsss wall with my ssstrengthened magical powers.

    Using my clawsss, I ssslid down the wall and ripped through those who had ssslain my parentsss. I hissed at the bewildered councccil and cccity and promisssed them my revenge. I fled the gatesss of the cccity I onccce called my home.

    Reply
  10. crd

    Hello, I’m brazilian, so I took a few more minutes in order to write it in English, haha.
    I didn’t had time to write what happened next, but I hope you people like it!

    During an unnaturaly harsh winter in Gillomd, a big boat with unusual metal plates and reflective wood was found roaming the waters near Firefall, the capital. The boat was different from those used in the Land of Giants and the nearby Islands of Silk, probably coming from outside of the Great Sea.
    Guards were dispatched to bring the boat to the beach in order to interrogate the men wandering on Gillomdian’s waters. The vessel was wide enough to hide weapons and maybe 4-6 grown men, so caution was advised. The soldiers were stationed near the beach when the fog suddenly dropped to the water level, drawing their spears and positioning it on front of them, they created a row of teeth read to feed on any man fool enough to rush on their land.
    Ripping through the haze as hot metal on goat-butter, the vessel reached the bitch in a non-stop motion, making a screeching sound of the retorting steel. The men surrounded the ship, waiting for movements; their hearts were the only sound in their ears, until a more familiar yet out-of-place treble reached their ears. A man, an old man, raising from the other end of the boat had something in his arms. His steps were short and cautious, soon the guards realized he was carrying a child, a newborn more probably.
    The old man had a long beard, it was unclear wether he was blond or hoary and the weather only made it even hard to distinguish. His arms sported numerous scars, so probably he was a warrior. He looked to the men around him, they all had weapons in pristine condition and armor that could reflect the sun – if it was present. A smile grew on his face, he tried to get out of the vessel but mistepped and fell to the water, turning his face up in order to protect the baby.
    All guards quickly threw their weapons to the ground and runned to help the old man. The man gnarled something unninteligible, and the soldiers looked at each other, without knowing what to do. The old warrior then, extended his arms, giving the baby and saying: “Ohmat no jorg.”
    One of the soldiers reached slowly, looking around.
    “Ohmat no jorg” he repeated.
    They had no idea what he was saying. It was too late, the men perished, his face fell to the side, half covered by water and was unresposive. One of the soldiers uttered a little pray before closing his eyes. He looked at the boat, and there was something written in a unkown language, but the drawings of the letters seemed to form a part of what the man said before he died: “Jorg”.
    They looked at each other, and the soldier carrying the baby looked beneath the garments the future little soldier worn and said to it, while holding it firmly to keep his little body warm:
    “Your name is now Jorg, little boy.”

    Reply
  11. stu102

    Very well put Alicia. Characterization is the gist of all great stories. Many authors make the mistake of stressing plot as the outline for their piece then they start adding and developing their characters around the scenes they think are exciting. Yet scenes can not really be flushed out too well unless each characters’ actions are result from that character’s personality. Meaning you can not have a character do something simply because you need to move the story from point A to point B. People are complex and they act according to their genetic makeup, their mood, their past traumas, compulsions, fears and out of love or ambition and often pride, loyalty or their religious beliefs just to name a few motives. So, how can you start with a plot outline then add the characters? A shy wall flower will react differently in a situation than a siren. These different reactions need to be addressed in later scenes and by other characters. Therefore your characters’ traits determine the development of the plot. http://www.anewtale.com/plot.html

    Reply
    • Alicia Rades

      I think you’re totally right. I find that a story moves along better when you know your characters. That way, you know what they’re going to do.

      Reply
  12. Michael Marsh

    I was born in Santa Cruz, California. My mother is a biologist,
    who specializes in coastal habitats. My father is an assistant dean at UC Santa
    Cruz. He died when I was young. They were never married. My mother was his
    mistress and lost her job at the University shortly after his death. I have an older brother, but I was always too little for him. He ran away from home at the age of 16. I tried to chase him down but he and his friend ditched me and left town. I was 9 and my mother was involved with an abusive man. I was all alone. We never heard from my brother, not while my mother was alive. When I was 14, I went to live at an alternative boarding school that was a working farm and started my life over. My mother committed slow suicide with drugs and alcohol. The official cause of death was a heart attack. She was 45. I was a senior in high school and had put walls around my childhood so that by the time she died I was well protected.

    Reply
  13. Elwyne

    I was having trouble with a character recently, thinking that because he is a gay man while I am neither I could not possibly know anything about him. But slowly I realized that we are the same age, both well-educated and gainfully employed, we both have sisters we don’t always get along with, we’re both in committed relationships with loveable if occasionally irritating men… in short, we have more in common than not. I felt like I knew him. Since then writing him has been a joy.

    David was born in Boston in the 1970s. He has one older sister and one younger, and the two of them fight like cats. David has always been the peacemaker. They lost their parents young, and Donna, the eldest, battled for custody of her siblings. The experience was hard on them all. David escaped for college as soon as he could.
    David always found solace in school. He was quick to learn, as well as quick to make friends. He knew from a young age that he liked boys rather than girls, and in high school he learned he was not alone. So it was with excitement and self-confidence that he went off to college, where he received a full scholarship and majored in math.
    His roommate was a mid-western boy named Martin, a pre-med major. They had much in common, both running track, both loving school, and quickly became best friends. Later, when Martin came out, they became lovers, and then partners. They have remained together ever since.
    Today, David is a teacher and Martin is a nurse. They live together in a pleasant suburb of Chicago, where they’ve formed a family of close friends and neighbors, keeping their own flesh and blood at arm’s length. Martin’s family could not accept his homosexuality, and cut him out of their lives. David’s family remains tense: his younger sister rebelled with drugs and alcohol, running away to live as a transient in Seattle, while his elder remains home, giving her life to the mystery of what really happened to their parents.

    The story I’m working on with David is the story of what happens when Donna finally succeeds.

    Reply
    • Alicia Rades

      I like how you point out the similarities in your first paragraph here. Your character clearly isn’t defined by being gay. There is lots more to him than that!

      Reply
  14. Friv Jogos

    There’s not too complicated, and we can basically remember it.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top Picks Thursday 09-26-2013 | The Author Chronicles - […] it’s hard for us to nail down our characters, so Alicia Rades lists 4 ways to find our characters.…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

77
Share to...