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Found 4 results

  1. Who is this person? And that person? Who are the characters populating this fictional world that I'm reading about? What do they look like, what are their personalities, and why should I care? These are all questions that need to be asked and answered with every new story that you put out, as you are trying to paint a vivid picture with the words you type on the screen. No matter how clear the vision of your main characters and love interests may be in your head, you have to keep in mind the fact that your readers only have your descriptions to go on when it comes to visualizing the people they're reading about. If you're looking to set the stage for your written experience, then you're going to want to give your readers a series of images to adhere to. Someone that they can picture walking, talking, and acting, in your little movie of the mind. So, this week, we're talking about character descriptions. Their importance, their effect on readers, and how to effectively translate the actors in your story to an eager audience. Let's get into it! Whenever I read a story for the first time, I mentally try to set the scene and imagine the characters to the best of my ability. If you mention that someone has amazing blue eyes, I put that in the back of my mind and picture someone with amazingly blue eyes. If you mention that they're an older man with a 5 o'clock shadow, then I picture that. If you mention a certain hair style, like a Mohawk or an emo fringe or a buzzcut...then I keep that with me. This works to further connect me to the story that I'm reading. Many of your readers are doing the same thing. They want to breathe life into the characters that they're meeting for the first time. I always think about a story as a cooperative experience between writer and reader. You are both creating the dream at the same time. You set the bare bones, and they fill in the details. This can make for a really engrossing read and can make your story more realistic and enjoyable through the sheer involvement of your audience in its creation. I can break this process down into three rules that have helped me out in the past. 'Suggest'. Don't control. If you are giving a physical description of the characters in your story...leave your readers some room to create their own vision of what they look like. Always remember the eye of the beholder when it comes to beauty. Usually, when I give details on a character, they're very basic. Eye color, hair color, general build, skin color or ethnicity, approximate age, style of dress...etc. Sometimes, if I have something or someone in mind specifically, I'll add a few extra details that I think will complete the exact look that I'm going for. But, I feel that it's important to let your audience define their own vision of beauty. I'm willing to bet if I asked them what some of my characters look like in their mind's eye...no two visions would be alike. That's a GOOD thing! Allow them to fall in love with characters that they, personally, find super attractive. Let them attach the physical attributes of the ultimate love interest to something or someone that they hold close to their heart. It makes for a more immersive experience while reading. Only add descriptions that are necessary. As a personal rule, I never add certain details unless they're a part of the character himself or herself. If they fit into the scale of what is considered 'average', then I feel like those descriptions are readily assumed, and therefore not needed. But...if one of those details is a defining part of the character themselves, then I might make mention of it. As an example...if a character is your average 5' 7" tall, give or take...I won't make that a part of the story. However, if the character is extra tall? Then that is a trait that gives the character a unique 'extra' that should be a part of what's going on. This goes for other details that need to be known if it affects how that character is seen or how they act. If their overweight, or emaciated, or rippling with muscles, or very short for their age. If they have a disability or a visible scar...if they have freckles, or braces, or wear glasses...these are all things that might not be assumed by your readers unless you tell them directly that this is what they look like. So, unless their appearance includes features that are somewhat unique to them...leave them out. You don't have to mention height, weight, or anything of that sort if they're average or not a departure from your typical protagonist's appearance. Let the character speak for themselves, it will show the reader who they are through their actions. Basically, this means that you don't have to 'tell' your readers who this character is through exposition or by using stereotypes to define who they are in relation to the rest of your story. When I started writing these stories, I felt the need to mention that the main character was gay. But that wasn't necessary. The main character is a boy, and he finds another boy attractive. That already explains the 'gay' issue without me having to announce it. That's a bit of fat that can be trimmed off of the story when I'm putting it together. I have written stories with characters who were blind, or deaf, or transgendered, and those details were needed to set up that particular character and initiate the kind of interactions that they were going to have with other characters in the story. But if I can describe them and their differences without actually saying it out loud...then it will work much better in the long run. This goes back to my article on 'show, don't tell'. Sometimes your characters can provide all the details needed through their actions and deeds, without the desperate need for you to spell it out for your audience. They'll get it. Just write the character with those traits in mind, and people will make their own assumptions along the way. Some details are self explanatory when it comes to the flow and direction of the narrative. So let it stand on it's own. K? So, keep those three rules in mind, and you can create a character that you love and want to present to your audience, while simultaneously giving your readers an opportunity to personalize their own visions of beauty and attraction by filling in the details of the characters you've given them to work with. Everybody has an idea of the most beautiful person in the world! Let them make that the love interest in your story, and they'll follow you, chapter to chapter, until the very end. Participation in the creation of a good story is key to making it work. There's a give and take between reader and writer. Never forget that. I hope this helps you guys get an even deeper understanding of your audience, and vice versa. Good luck to you all! And I'll talk to ya some more next weekend!
  2. “I gave you good script,” Ma to Alan Cocktail Sticks, a play by Alan Bennett The writer Alan Bennett has been very open about how much he is inspired by real-life events. He has written plays and film scripts all inspired by real-life events; he has written several volumes of autobiographical essays, and every year or so he publishes extracts from his diary. I’ve seen and read all of them and enjoyed them so much. In his autobiographical play Cocktail Sticks, about his relationship with his parents, the character of Ma (based on his mother) says, “I gave you good script,” meaning he has used so many of the actual things she said in his writing. I cannot class myself in the same writing league as Alan Bennett, but I take so much inspiration from real-life events. That inspiration seems to fall into three different types. The first is when I want to write about events or attitudes that have made me angry or upset. This is when I use fiction to explore how I feel about a subject or when I want to write about attitudes in order to expose the negative/destructive nature of them. My short story I Always Knew is an example of this. It was the height of the Jimmy Savile scandal and I heard an elderly journalist on the radio saying that he’d always known about Savile’s crimes. My anger led me to explore that attitude, those people who are always “wise” after a tragedy, in this story. Secondly, I can find inspiration in news headlines and real events. Sometimes it a headline and a short news item that inspires my imagination. I don’t do anymore research, instead I let my imagination dwell on those sparse descriptions or even single event and then I fill out the events and with characters I’ve created. Without researching the events any further I can make sure I am not using the people and their tragedy for my own fiction, that my story is a complete work of fiction. A Family Christmas is an example of me using this type of inspiration. There was a mass shooting in America, on Christmas Eve, the year before I wrote this story. I learnt no more about that tragedy but my imagination filled in the blanks and I created a story that explored a theme that leapt out at me from this tragedy. I don’t always search out stories of death and tragedy, all kinds of things in the media can set my imagination off running. I read an interview with the actor Russell Tovey where he said a throwaway comment, but that comment set my imagination off. The result was the story That One Big Role. I have also been researching historical events for a series of stories. These take a lot more research and less of my imagination filling in the blanks, though some of that is still needed. With these stories I want to examine a historical event from a fictional character’s point of view, find the human story inside the facts. These stories do take a lot of work, but I don’t want to stop writing them, the research is fascinating. The Trial of the Century is the first one in this style I wrote. Thirdly, I find inspiration from my own life. It can either be just one small factor that I then spin off into a whole story, or else it can form a larger part of a story, or else I fictionalise something that happened to me as a way to explore what and why that thing happened. Boxing Day 1975 is a short story of mine that was inspired by one event from my life. When I was a young child, on Boxing Day, together with my family I watched the big film on television that evening, One Million Years BC. That was the only part I took into the story, it is certainly not based on my own family but I do vividly remember how my family all sat down together to watch the same television film. I met my first boyfriend in 1987 but our relationship did not last. Our break-up was different, difficult and not that conventional. I used that break-up scene, almost word-for-word from real life, as the opening scene of my story Out of the Valley. I used this story to explore obsessive love and not being able to let go of an ex-lover, none of which was my reaction to the end of that relationship, though this story did go through many rewrites over the years with the wish-fulfilment ending being quickly dropped. Then there are those real-life encounters that play on my mind and imagination and form the bases of some of my stories. Jonathan Roven Is Lost (a story in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life) is a story that started off in that way. Through my job, I saw the effect dementia has on the partners of those people with it. My blog here gives a much fuller picture of how that story was created. For me, there isn’t just one way that I find inspiration, but I guess that is the same for so for many writers, but using inspiration and facts from real life is very important to me, I want my stories to have that taste of authenticity. I don’t use overheard dialog in my writing, like many writers do, because the few times I’ve heard anything decent I’ve forgotten the actual words by the time I get home. But I do use real people in my writing or people’s attitudes and beliefs. I don’t use direct copies of people; I don’t feel comfortable if readers can easily identify the person who was the inspiration for a character. So often I combine different things from different people—the attitude from one person, the clothes style from another and the physical appearance from another. But what really fascinates me are people’s attitudes and beliefs and how they affect their lives and how people’s personalities react in different situations. For me, I find inspiration in so many different ways, so many different things can spark and inspire my imagination, but in the end it is my imagination that forms the story from whatever the inspiration is, though I always work to create authenticity in my fiction. I hope my stories bear that out. I do remember one of the classic things my mother said, though I have never found the right story to use it in. I was in my early teens and had just come home from school one afternoon and my mother was unpacking her shopping. “I won’t buy anymore lemonade, all you lot ever do is drink it,” my mother said. “What should we do with it, wash in it?” I said. “You know what I mean,” she told me. And I did. Happy reading Drew
  3. When trying to put the idea together of this particular article in my head, I had to be careful to steer clear of the whole idea and philosophy of 'determinism' and 'free will', hehehe...which is an entire novel's worth of intellectual discussion that would probably ehaust all of us before I even BEGIN to scratch the surface of the point that I want to make here in terms of our skills as writers, and crafting a story of our very own. Simultaneously using one side of the argument while giving the illusion of the other. Basically...the Cliff's Notes version deals with the idea of whether or not we truly have the blessing of 'free will' in our lives, or simply the illusion of free will through social dogma and an uncanny sense of optimism. Hehehe! And, just reading what you've read so far...you may be wondering how the hell 'Comsie' is going to somehow weave this into a lesson about writing online fiction! Well, be patient! I'm getting to that! And, for many of you writers out there who may be getting mediocre or somewhat lackluster responses to your work...the following lessons may actually help you to create a more engaging story for your readers to absorb and invest themselves into along the way. The big question this time around, folks? Who's in charge here? Trust me...it matters. See...when you're writing a story, you are actually taking on the divine role of a creator. From beginning to end. You already know what's going to happen, and you've planned out all of the events in advance. Your main characters don't have any say in how things turn out, because it's your personal magic that's pushing this master game plan forward and guiding things the way that you want them to go. You're the one in control. But it's your duty as an author to simply operate behind the scenes to hide your influence and allow your audience to become so involved in the trials and tribulations of your characters that you remain somewhat 'invisible' when it comes to being the architect of every event you carry them through until the story is over. Does that make sense? The illusion of giving your characters free will and a choice over what's going to happen next is key when it comes to writing an engaging story. But...not everybody really thinks of a 'story' in those terms. And that's where some authors can find themselves falling into a state of subtle limbo that doesn't feel wrong...but can end up draining all of the interest out of your story in the long run. Sometimes, even in the short run. Let me explain... There is one, sure fire, way to completely bore your readers with you're writing. You may not realize it, and even the readers won't realize it right away...but here it is. You ready? Do NOT let your story drag your protagonist along it's journey from beginning to end! Just...don't do it! It can become mind-numbing to a reader. No matter the premise, or the plot, or the concept...always remember the 'pro' in your 'protagonist'. He/She is in charge. Establish that early on, and stick with it. It will help soooo much if you manage to keep an eye on this sort of this thing while you're writing. The one thing that can bring a story down from its true potential is having your main character, the sole focus of your amazing tale of drama/romance/adventure...being led around by a faceless, disembodied, storyline. Dragging them from one even to another without the main character's involvement in what's actually going on. Now, I don't want anyone to take any offense to me saying that, as there is a delicate balance that can be worked in to maintain some sort of mystery and tension, while still keeping your protagonist the highlight of your project. However...I've seen that balance ruined many many times in the past. Not just in other writers' work, but also in my own. So I'm leaving this little landmine as a warning for you guys to avoid in the future. Hmmmm...how to better explain this... When you create a main character for your particular story...you want your readers to sincerely believe that they have some say in how this particular story is going to turn out in the end. Of course...you're the author...the architect...hehehe, and what your readers believe or don't believe ultimately have no impact on the end of your story at all (Unless you want it too)...but that's not a part of the illusion, is it? The whole point is to make your audience feel as though your protagonist is actively fighting for the best possible outcome...whether they're able to achieve that in the end or not. You want your writing to put them, center stage, as often as humanly possible. This is one of those moments where I reveal one of my hidden little 'Comsie Secrets' when I'm writing, hehehe! If you look over a vast majority of my stories on the site, you'll see my writing constantly playing around with the exact balance that I'm talking about here. The idea that there's some outside force that's controlling the actions and reactions of the main character, where he feels helpless to escape it. A sense of fate. Things that were meant to be, or not meant to be, that are clearly out of his control...because the divine writer of his narrative is the one running the show outside of his consent. This can be clearly seen stories like, "My Only Escape", "Save Or Sacrifice", "On The Outside", and more. And by the time we get into stories like "Billy Chase", "Gone From Daylight", and "Savage Moon"...my methods of wobbling back and forth over that precious line become more clear. There's an idea that 'it's not my fault', and that there's something going on that's beyond my control. What did you expect me to do? Here's the gem in walking that line though. Your main characters become stronger and more interesting when they finally begin to question that particular 'formula' and begin to work against it. THAT makes for an exciting story! No matter what genre you happen to be writing in. Fighting against that 'fate' and growing to a point where you feel capable of challenging the design that was laid out for you without you having any say in it. Let's face it...the days of 'boy meets boy' are pretty much over and done with. Too simple. Too easy. Too predictable. Hehehe, it won't be considered a 'party foul' if you write a story like that from time to time for fun...but if you're looking to stand out, you'll need more. In all of the linked stories that I mentioned above...if you haven't read any of them yet, just jump in at any random point and check out a few pages when you get a chance. There are going to be times when I allow the story to pull the main characters into situations and present certain obstacles and dangers along the way...but I try hard to keep the story from controlling everything going on around it. No...that's what the protagonist is for. Your protagonist needs to be an active participant in what's going on here. Don't sideline him by giving the situations in his path drag him from one 'non-decision' to the next. It's hard to explain, but it makes for a really boring story in the long run. "Why did he do this?" Answer? "Because the story told him he had to." Well, after two or three instances of that being used as an excuse...that gets old. Really fast. Have your protagonist make conscious decisions about he wants to proceed to the next part of his journey. Don't leave him ten steps behind throughout the whole story and deprive your audience from ever feeling like he was in control of his own destiny from the very beginning. It's literary suicide. Most of my characters start out this way...feeling at the mercy of a greater plan that is, obviously, not conspiring in their favor. And that leads to angst, frustration, paranoia, fear, and some truly naive and awkward decisions on their part. BUT...that's where the fun part comes in! Because, most of my character arcs essentially come from those same characters questioning the design and deviating from the chosen path to explore something new. Something real. And this creates the feeling that your protagonist is actually the one in charge! It's something that your readers will appreciate and invest themselves in when diving into your story, full force. Nobody wants to read about things that are static and planned out and are 'supposed' to happen, no matter what. Be careful of stumbling into that pitfall as a writer. The most influential writers swim upstream. But it can be fun to goof around with the whole 'cliche fake out' tropes from time to time too. Hehehe! Anyway, always make sure that it's your protagonist that's pushing your story forward and not the other way around. Don't leave your hero to be led around by the dick while the story basically tells your readers, "I can do this, with or without him being a part of this." It diminishes the importance of your shining star. Give your main character something to do. Let him mold the story. Let his decisions have an impact. Otherwise...you've got a main character chasing butterflies for an entire narrative...and that can be a snooze fest. Just a little something that I've learned from experience over the years. And hope to get better at correcting in the years to come. I hope this helps! I'd love to hear if you have any thoughts on this down below! Take care! And I'll seezya soon!
  4. my favorite would have to be Max from ABC's Happy Endings! who is yours? and if you can't pick one in particular, who's your top something?
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