Archive for July 8th, 2009

Jul 08 2009

Other things about your characters that rarely matter

Published by under Character Development

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1. What their eyes look like. Eyes are almost never as interesting to the reader as they are to the author.  Additionally, describing what the eyes look like suggests a level of closeness that often implies romantic intimacy.  Finally, eye-color comes up so rarely in real life that it’s weird to mention it in fiction.  Here’s a mental exercise:  take yourself, your mom, your dad, and your significant other.  How many of their eye-colors can you name with certainty?  If eye-colors are such a minor detail to you that you can’t name your mom’s eye-color, what are the odds are that your readers will care about your protagonist’s eyes?  Very, very slim.

2. What they did when they woke up. It is almost impossible to write an interesting morning routine.  If your book starts with a character waking up, the manuscript is probably dead on arrival.  Just cut to the part where they do something interesting.

3. Extra names. In most cases, I’d recommend a first name or a last name, but try to avoid switching between the two.  Middle names are almost always a waste of time.  (In contrast, secret identities are usually acceptable because they are plot-important and because readers can easily understand why the character is sometimes called Superman even though his name is Clark).

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Jul 08 2009

How to Do Settings and Scenery Well

Published by under Setting,Writing Articles

1.  Focus on details that develop a character. For example, it’s not so interesting that your hero’s bedroom has a dresser. What can the dresser tell us about the character? If he’s such a neat-freak that he even sorts and folds his underwear, that helps build his personality.

2.  Use sensory details and props to develop a mood. For example, let’s say you’re describing a hospital.  Is it clean and professional like the Mayo Clinic?  Or is it seedy and dangerous like a Tijuana chopshop?  Is it primal and raw like a shaman’s hut?  What do the patients look and smell like?  What sort of medical implements are on hand?  How do the staff and receptionists behave?  What does the place smell like?  Are there any noticeable sounds?  What are the bathrooms like?  Etc.

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Jul 08 2009

The Ridiculously Implausible Escapes of GI Joe Characters

Cartoon shows aimed at kids usually have tight restrictions on violence: usually drawing blood, maiming, shooting and killing are off the table.  Sometimes this merely forces writers to get creative.  For example, TMNT’s Leonardo tends to use his sword more as a tool than a weapon and he’s usually the first turtle to get disarmed.  However, GI Joe raises the “no real violence” restrictions to an art-form.  Never before has there been so much warfare without any injuries.  Slate has more.

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Jul 08 2009

Featured: Which female characters are the most awful and why? Who’s awesome?

Which female characters do you think are the most awful? Which are the most excellent? What separates the two? Marissa and I really appreciate your feedback; Marissa’s writing an article for us about how to do female characters well. (You can see our article on male characters here).

205 responses so far