Tips For Character Building

I’m back! I took some time off there to celebrate my mom’s and my boyfriend’s birthdays as well as to finish revisions for Chasing Fae. Last night, I submitted my book for copyediting, and it is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. At first, I was really nervous because after this, I can no longer change any content of the book. But now I am realizing that Chasing Fae is ready. It’s ready to be seen by the world, and the story is just perfect the way it is. I can’t wait to see how copyediting turns out!

Now that Book 1 is wrapping up officially, it is time to look towards Book 2. And for me, that means creating new characters and new storylines. Over the past couple days, I have been working on a few secondary characters who will play some major roles in the remaining two books of the trilogy. While I was working on those, I ended up explaining to a writer friend of mine how I like to approach my character building and my thought process during that stage. I thought I would share those thoughts with you today.

Tip #1: Consider your character’s flaws before their strengths.

One of the things that every strong character needs is well defined flaws. Without them, your characters will feel flat and unrealistic. While talking to a writer friend, I have figured out that I like to figure out my character’s flaws before I think about their strengths. Take Grace, for example. Some of her biggest flaws involve prejudice against the Fae, stubbornness, and an inability to trust after her brother’s death. These were flaws that directly related to the plot that I had in mind. All of these components were necessary for the story to progress and for Grace to transform by the end.

When I thought about Grace’s flaws, I felt like they easily lent themselves to finding corresponding strengths. While Grace has a heavy inability to trust, it also means that in the relationships that she engages in, she is extremely loyal. If someone meets her high threshold for trust, she is going to put her faith in them and protect them at all costs. Her narrow-minded thinking in terms of her hate for the Fae allows her to be a very comprehensive planner and disciplined in her training. She doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks in her mission. This also connects with her stubbornness.

It is an interesting approach, but I have had good results from it, I think!

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to really get to know your characters, even the little things.

I really enjoy getting inside my characters’ heads. I love to see what they have learned over their lives and what makes them tick. In my opinion, as a writer, it is important to sit down and truly speak with your characters. Ask them questions: not just about the big things, but about the little things too.

I like to give my characters birthdays, and more importantly, to align those birthdays with their zodiac sign. Sometimes I can pull traits from the description associated with those zodiac signs to add another layer to my characters. I’ll ask my characters all sorts of small things like their favorite color, their favorite foods, their favorite games growing up, etc. These details may not be relevant to your story, and in fact, your readers may never see this information at all. But I find that the characters feel more real when they have interests and hates and quirks that define who they are.

Tip #3: Backstory is so important.

One of the comments that I kept hearing from my editors was that there was a decent amount of space to include more backstory. Knowing your characters’ backstories helps to put everything in context for your readers. Understanding where Grace had been and what she cares about from her past moves the entire story forward and clarifies her motivations in a clear way. Backstory has to be incorporated throughout your book in conversations and in your character’s inner thoughts revealing themselves (most likely your protagonist). And you can incorporate a lot more into your book than you might think. Not so much that it consumes the actual plot, but enough to give your readers a sense of where your characters came from. So it is important to create a strong foundational past for your characters. Make sure to dedicate some significant focus to that area, and you should be just fine.

That is all of my insight for the day! Happy writing, everyone.

Writing Fight Scenes

After going through my first round of revisions with my editor, I finally feel reasonably competent enough to discuss this subject! Whether it is a simple one-on-one scuffle or a full-scale battle, fight scenes are pretty integral to the fantasy genre. They make up some of the most memorable scenes that your reader will return to over and over again, if done right. Each scene should be approached with care to ensure that the scene feels natural, but intense. Today, I want to share with you my best tips to approaching a fight scene on any scale.

Tip #1: All fight scenes must move your plot and character development forward in some way. Do not include them just to have them.

Enough said.

Tip #2: Make sure you know your players.

Who is involved in this fight? Is it two people, or several, or a large multitude of characters? The more players you have, the more complex your battle is going to be. Before you even think about drafting this scene, think about each character and their fighting style. This is influenced by their size, any weapons training they may have or lack, if they are magical, etc. I also like to take into account my character’s emotions at the time. Are they fired up and ready to attack? Are they trying to escape from something, and this is the fight of their lives? There are often multiple emotions swirling around at once: fear, adrenaline, determination, heartbreak. As a writer, you have to balance these factors as you approach the actual physical process of the fight.

Tip #3: Consider the battlefield and the available resources.

Where is this fight taking place? The battle dynamics will be very different if it is taking place in an open field rather than a forest. Consider what cover is available and where would be the best place for an army to retreat to. When it comes to resources, you need to do some research into what kind of weaponry the characters involved in your fight are using. Each type of weapon comes with its benefits and its drawbacks, and in a big battle, the writer ends up showing a lot of both sides. If this is a fight between two armies, they each may have their own combat style as a group with those weapons. This requires you to understand your world’s history. Who knew so much background research could go into a battle?

Tip #4: Break down the chaos.

In actuality, a battle may only last a few minutes, or it could go on for days. Both of these situations require the writer to break down the moments into digestible pieces for the reader to absorb. That being said, by doing so, a few minutes can stretch out for pages and pages. So it is important to pick the moments to showcase and the times to step back and see more of the complete picture at once. Every movement should be written in an active voice. Make your reader feel every slash and connection of a sword to another’s body or their own. Describe the atmosphere: is the air thick with the smell of blood or smoke? The most important thing to do is to keep things active, descriptive, and fast-paced without making it too manic. Convey the chaos of the fight and the whirlwind of weaponry, bodies, and emotion without letting it all blend together too much.

I may modify this article as I move forward with writing the first draft of my sequel, which involves much more battles than the first. I am looking forward to it!

Happy writing!

Writing Endings

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to writing about fantasy writing! One of the most important elements of a novel that you have to nail is your ending. Your beginning pulls readers in, and your plot and your characters keep the reader engaged for the subsequent book. But your ending has got to bring everything home. A bad ending on a great book will leave a sour taste in the reader’s mouth. Trust me, I’ve been there. Even if you love the book, there’s something about a poor ending that can erase part of that happiness.

So, the ending is pretty important. Today, I want to talk about what it means to finish a book well and a few tips that I’ve picked up while writing Chasing Fae.

Finish Your Plot.

This seems like it should be obvious, but it warrants saying anyway for several reasons. Your ending has to wrap up the main storyline. You have to finish the main plot arc of the book regardless of whether you are continuing on the storyline in a sequel. A definitive end must be visible for your reader, or you may leave them wanting. You should also consider your subplots. If it’s a standalone story, everything must end. If you plan on having a sequel or several sequels, then in my personal opinion, subplots should come to a natural stopping place. It doesn’t have to be a positive place; for example, you can end a relationship in a tumultuous position. But I think that it’s important for readers to feel like there’s a clear pause.

Make sure your ending makes sense.

Your ending should feel natural. It’s perfectly acceptable to wrap up the main plot and then have a scene or two afterwards that allows the characters to simmer down to normalcy or the new normal after the climax. Let’s see the aftermath of the character’s decisions over the course of the book. What has to change in order for the world around them to stabilize? Does the world stabilize, or is this the beginning of a new conflict? If your main character’s world calms down, write about how they feel now that the adventure is over. Who is in their life now to stay? Who has disappeared? If your ending is going to lead into a new conflict in a subsequent book, your readers want to see the inklings of that rising. Offer some hints into what is to come, even super vague ones. One of my favorite books of all time, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, has an amazing ending that was a little strange and intriguing reading it the first time. And then when you read the second book, about midway through, I suddenly went “OH! EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW! THIS IS AMAZING!” *subsequent reader screaming*. Experiment with your ending. Write it a few different ways and see what you like best. Get other writers’ or readers’ opinions.

Show Your Protagonist In All Their Glory.

Your ending does not have to showcase a triumphant moment. Your protagonist could be suffering after a horrible loss. The most important role of your ending is to show how your main character has grown internally over the course of the novel. Whether you are depicting victory and resolution or defeat and the construction of a new plan, your character’s emotions will show up on the page. In a victory situation, you will see happiness or you may see them step into a new role in their lives. There may be an aura of calm about them that is totally different from what the reader has seen over the course of the novel. In a defeat situation, there’s a lot of anger and sadness and fear, and you have a real opportunity to lay out your character’s innermost thoughts. You can attest to their stubbornness and their determination and as a writer, strongly convey that pivotal decision to get up and try again in the next book. I personally love both kinds of endings, but especially the latter. You want to know if the protagonist will get what they deserve out of life. As a reader, I crave it; I absolutely have to know. And that’s what keeps me reading and keeps me buying the next book in a series.

Happy writing, everyone.

An Interview with Faolan

What is your full name? – Faolan Alon Infernos.

Where do you call home? – The streets of Dorchan, the palace city of the House of Darkness.

How close are you to your family? – My family isn’t… the close type. We don’t do affection very well. The person I’m closest to is my twin sister, Cary. She’s a badass woman, not as cool as me, but decent. She runs in a completely different circle than I do. She’s sexy and bold; She’ll tease everyone and then not give them even a chance to touch. She’s manipulative (she gets that from our father) and uses all the skills she’s got to get what she wants.

Who is the person you respect the most and why? – Myself. Duh. I don’t respect a lot of people’s authority. Perhaps my father’s, but that respect is aided with a little… violence. 

Do you trust anyone to protect you? Who and why? – I protect myself. I don’t expect anyone else to do it for me. I am responsible for myself and no one else.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? – Running the black market on my own. Putting it together, finding the connections, making the communication work. Hell, suggesting mortal runners.

Describe a normal day for you. – I usually wake up with a beautiful woman by my side. I’ll usually take her to breakfast before sending her on her way. Then it’s off to either meetings with my father or I’m out on the town working with the black market. In the afternoon, it’s the same thing. In the evenings, I usually go out to dinner unless my presence is requested for a palace dinner. Then it’s to one of the local clubs to dance and pick up someone for a good time.

What is your greatest strength as a person? – My tactical knowledge and my ability to read people. 

What is your greatest weakness? – Probably my need to be in charge of shit.

What is the one thing for which you would most like to be remembered after your death? – The black market that lived and died with me.

Names: Naming Characters and Places in Fantasy Writing

One of the first hurdles that comes up in writing fantasy can pop up before you even dive into worldbuilding and character building: picking names. I have heard of writers who use a placeholder name while they brainstorm other elements and then change the name once the right one reveals itself. But I can’t even imagine beginning my story without having a few names down to begin with.

This is one of my favorite parts of the pre-drafting stage. Names ground me in where I am and who I’m working with, and in some cases, give me ideas for setting aspects or personality traits for characters. When your book is out there in the world, your fans are going to know your characters by name. If you’re lucky enough to have international fame, your names can become a household phrase. Think of the Harry Potter series. Instant brand recognition. A true fan knows countless spells and can recite to you every Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts and which book they came from. Names are important.

Character Names

When I start with a book idea, I often start with an idea for a character. Usually, a personality trait or a specific conviction for the character comes first. From there, I move on to picking a name. Sometimes I’ve already got the perfect name picked out, but more often than not, I’ll head over to a baby names website or a name generator. If I know a meaning I want, I’ll search for that. If I have a letter in mind, I’ll sort alphabetically.

Make sure to craft first, middle, and last names. The whole package can be incredibly satisfying. I like to say my full names aloud to hear how the different pieces flow together. I would highly recommend using this technique; you’ll find that the right name just clicks in your head and on your lips at the same time.

Here are a couple links that I find useful:

Fantasy Name Generator: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/

Random Name Generator: https://randomwordgenerator.com/name.php

Baby Name Generator: https://www.motherandbaby.co.uk/baby-names/baby-name-generator

Baby Name Genie (one of my favorites!): https://www.babynamegenie.com/baby-name-generator

World Names

Your universe is going to be made up of a lot of names across every level: universe, world, realm, state, city, town, village, etc. And not all of them are going to need to be come up with before you start drafting. But you do need a few basic place names down in order to start.

Now, I’ve heard conflicting opinions on whether you should try for simple names or super fantastical, difficult to pronounce names to make your story unique. While I think having names that have a little fantastical element to them is important, I think hard to pronounce names leave your readers guessing and posting on Reddit trying to figure out how to say them. I like a healthy mix of the two in a fantasy novel. Enough names that I can say out loud and then a few where I’m just like “how in the world did they come up with that, that’s so cool!”.

My world’s names are very simple. All of the noble houses pull their names from the elements and the day and the evening and war and peace and then just insert “House of” or “House of the”, depending on which one. I did that purposefully because I like the duality of contrasting houses. Day vs. Evening, Water vs. Fire, Light vs. Darkness. I want to play off of what you think those noble houses should be all about and then flip some of them on their heads.

Once I have the main names down, I usually come up with the main geographical features names. Mountain ranges, oceans, rivers, and the like. I tend to do all of the main ones up front. Then I come up with my city and town names as my characters travel to them. Eventually, I’ll fill all of them in, but it isn’t necessary before I start writing.

Here are a few links to get you started:

Realm Name Generator: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/realm-names.php

Mountain Name Generator: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/mountain-names.php

River Name Generator: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/river-names.php

Water Name Generator: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/water-names.php

Fantasy Kingdom Name Generator: https://springhole.net/writing_roleplaying_randomators/fantasykingdomnames.htm

Place Name Generator: https://www.namegenerator.biz/place-name-generator.php

Happy brainstorming, everyone!

How To Plan Out A Series

One of the most popular ways to write fantasy is through a series. Readers enjoy series because it offers them a chance to stick with the same characters over an extended period of time. They get to watch them evolve through a series of events and become very attached to their survival and happiness. Series keep us on edge every moment, waiting for the next book to come out or waiting for the final conclusion. If you’re thinking about writing a series of your own, here are a few tips to help you out.

Step One: Map Out Your Plot

One of the most important things about writing a great series is making sure that your story can be carried over several books. Now if you’re just starting out with an idea, it can seem like a lot to think about right off the bat. But if you’re looking to plan a series, I imagine you have at least some basic idea of what major events happen when. Use those to understand whether you’ve got enough story.

Think about how many books you want to write. There’s no magic number (although three is quite popular); each story idea is unique. Remember, each book needs to have its own plot arc: a clear purpose that is worked towards over the course of the novel definitively fulfilled at the end. Then on top of that, each book needs to contribute to the overall series arc. The series arc itself also has its own purpose that must be worked towards at each stage. If you can see all of these main elements, congratulations! Your idea has enough substance to write a series.

Step Two: Get To Know Your Characters

I talk all the time about getting to know your characters on an intimate level. I’ve suggested creating character profiles and conducting an in depth interview with your character. When writing a series, this is especially crucial.

Over the course of your books, you’re going to be playing around with multiple important characters and multiple big character arcs. Outside of your main character, several secondary characters are going to have significant arcs that will influence the story. In each book, your main character will go through a change. You have to clearly see that change each time you pick up the next book and introduce a new change that will begin to play out. Your secondary characters will evolve over the course of the series, and each book doesn’t have to have a specific change for them.

In order to accomplish this, you need to absorb your characters’ personalities, motivations, and goals. You need to know them better than you know yourself. Using the tools I’ve linked above will assist you.

Step Three: Consider your world.

Your worldbuilding will need to be detailed enough for your readers to learn new places and new details each time they pick up an installment. Think about the Harry Potter universe and how expansive it is, how J.K. Rowling introduced us to new places and magical aspects every time we picked up one of her books. Take the time to ask questions about your world and dive deep into everything from geography down to individual family life. Your magic system will also need to be built to last as it will be a crucial backbone as your characters move throughout your fantastical universe. Dream as big as you want.

Are you ready to start? Happy writing!

Creating Subplots

A great fantasy story must always incorporate more than just a main plotline. Smaller stories and adventures should be included to give more insight into the characters and build up to the climax of the main story. Subplots tend to show progress and growth in a character without necessarily being part of their main journey or goal. These subplots can focus on the main character and their secondary goals or a secondary character and their own storyline. All subplots should relate back to the main plot and intersect the story in some way. That could mean relating back to the main themes or showing progress in the characters that are essential to the main journey.

Types of Subplots

There is a wide variety of subplots to choose from when looking at your own novel. Here are a few useful ones to recognize:

  • One of the most common and most recognizable subplots are romantic subplots. The main character falls in love with a secondary character who in turn reveals a lot of intimate information about the former character’s motivations, dreams, and personality traits. Romantic subplots are often the easiest to incorporate into most genres; with fantasy, they tend to walk hand in hand.
  • Another solid subplot idea for fantasy is something brewing in the political world. My own book explores this in the way of political tension, subverting alliances, and the constant presence of impending war. This subplot is often a great way to bring in detailed worldbuilding and historical background into your story.
  • It is always a great idea to show conflict between main and secondary characters. This can include a conflict with a villain that perhaps exists on the fringes of your main plot or an argument with a friend or lover that changes the main character’s course. These subplots add depth to your characters and often can have a transformative effect on a character’s psyche.
  • Anything that showcases a character’s strengths, flaws, and motivations can be incorporated into the story as a subplot. You’re not limited to the types of ideas I’ve listed above.

A Tip On Identifying and Incorporating Subplots

When I finished the first draft of Chasing Fae, one of things I did was take several sheets of paper and draw out several large arcs. I then went through my book and labeled each event of the main plot on one arc. On the next few, I took some time to pick out the events in my novel that didn’t connect directly to the main storyline. Those, I then was able to sort and begin to create some subplot arcs. Wherever I saw gaps, I made notes on what to write to fill them in to make my subplots complete. The final arc I used to create a character arc so I could definitively see how Grace changed and grew over the course of the entire novel. If there wasn’t a logical jump between one point and another, I created a new event to add in my second draft and create a new subplot off of that.

I would highly recommend this method if you’re having trouble identifying what kind of subplots you want to incorporate or what subplots you already have brewing. It also serves as a great tool to break your story down and really gain a deep understanding of your characters and your plot.

I hope this has been helpful. Happy writing!

An Interview With Aiden

A rendition of Aiden.

What is your full name? – My name is Aiden Faolan Çaelic.

Where do you call home now? – Now, I’m a bit more of a wanderer. I’m with the House of the Sun’s military. I’m stationed currently in Shadowshore, a mining town in the House of the Day.

Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? – I’d like to find… I don’t know.. Some sort of meaning in life. Something to strive for. Something to live for. I want adventure in my life. I joined the military to find it, but I haven’t found it yet.

How would you describe your personality? – I’m… *smiles coyly* a bit of a flirt. You can ask around; anyone will tell you so. It’s healthy to explore the more… sensual sides of your personality. I’m straightforward with people. What you see is what you get. I’m not ashamed of who I am. I am loud and proud, and I like to showcase that. But don’t think I’m some airhead. I’ve got a strong head on my shoulders, and my magical abilities are nothing to chuckle at.

Describe a normal day for you. – Let’s see… I normally wake up alone or with my latest find if it’s a weekend at whatever lodging the troop has stopped at for the night. I like to cuddle after sex; I would rather have my women stay the night. Now, I can be an early riser during the week, mainly due to mandatory obligations to the military. If it’s a weekend, you better believe I’m sleeping in. During the week, it’s training exercises and patrols and the like. I try to search for a little adventure or some skirt to chase. I usually save that for the evening though. Nights are for prowling, throwing back a couple beers with some friends, and just generally having a good time.

How close are you to your family? – In general, I’m pretty close to my family. My mother and I are the closest. She’s always been there for me, always helped me through any and every situation. My father and I have a little bit more of a cordial relationship than a clearly loving one. But we respect each other. My brother and I aren’t really close though.

What are your reasons for being an adventurer? – I’m an adventurer for reasons that are fairly simple. I want to find something in my life worth fighting for. And I’ll face every challenge, climb every mountain, and chase every storm until I find it.

What do you believe makes a successful life? – Freedom to be who you are. To live out a life that’s exciting to you, no matter in what way that is. Enough money to live comfortably and a family to share it with. Life is short. You have to live it to the fullest. Or else, what’s the point?

Character Development Exercise

Hello everybody! Hope everyone is doing well this week. I’m gearing up for the end of my freshman year, running headfirst into three written exams, two final papers, one final presentation (which luckily is already out of the way as of yesterday), and one final performance for my theater class. Wish me luck. I’m definitely going to need it.

Today, I want to talk about character development. I wrote a previous post a couple months ago about creating character profiles (linked here), and I still believe in the effectiveness of this into getting to know a lot about your characters. However, I want to introduce a new exercise that I have found to be even more effective.

This past week, I’ve been focused on fleshing out character development. In my novel, I had relatively strong characters, but their development was choppy and disjointed. More needed to be seen from them in order to make the story feel whole. After a lot of thought, I revisited working on my characters individually.

The Exercise

I discovered this tool while searching for character development exercises online. After working through the questions for a few days, I can speak for its effectiveness.

This link leads to a blog post from 2010 by the creator of the blog, Labotomy of a Writer, Anastasia V. Pergakis. It contains an incredibly detailed character questionnaire that reads like an interview. Working through these questions allows you to answer questions in your character’s voice and allow your character to take full shape.

I have learned more about my main character in the last few days than I could have imagined. I have found three new stories of her past to explore in various places in the book, stories that blend in seamlessly. Suddenly, my fingers would be on autopilot, pulling new ideas out of thin air. I feel like a new writer again.

I highly recommend giving this post a look. I feel like it gets deep into both a character’s personality and their motivations and goals, which as we know is very important to the progression of your story. Happy writing!

Making Character Profiles

As requested by my followers, today, I want to focus on creating strong characters that can carry your fantasy story.

Now in terms of what is more important, plot or characters, I have an equivocal opinion.

They are both equally important.

Let me tell you why. Your characters are the ones who are going to drive the story. Their decisions, their thought processes, and their emotions will influence every tiny detail of your plot. More than often than not, your characters will also change the direction of your story entirely, leading you to create new plot points that you may never have thought of before.

When I am creating my main characters, I want them to be as complete as possible. I want to know exactly what they look like, where they come from, and their strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, I rely on this pdf tool from EpiGuide that I discovered around age 13.

The link above will send you to a full length character questionnaire/profile with a fairly comprehensive set of questions geared toward authors looking to get deep inside their character’s heads. Now, when you first open the document, you may think it is insanely long. And truth be told, it is. It takes me a few hours to come up with responses and fill things out. However, when I’m finished, I feel like I have a much better understanding of my characters, and my writing always improves by incorporating little details from this profile.

So. What kind of information are you going to create through this character profile?

  1. Basic information: Name, nicknames, birthday, hometown, basic information about their home, job, and relationships (if applicable)
  2. Physical appearance: very detailed questions about physical features as well as the character’s general style (what type of clothes they wear and any prominent accessories
  3. Speech and Language/Communication: This section is one of my favorites; it’s really interesting and something you wouldn’t normally think about. These questions focused on the way your character communicate. Do they have an accent? Any words or phrases that they traditionally use? What about body language?
  4. Everyday Behavior/Habits: This section is going to include things like what a typical day for your character looks like, any personal habits that they may subscribe to, as well as their skills and hobbies.
  5. Family of Origin: basic information about the character’s family and their relationship to their family.
  6. The Past: Past events and memories that have shaped the way the character is today.
  7. Relationships to Others: This section is very important. Not only do the questions help you discover how your character relates to people they know, but also people in places of authority, strangers, people less fortunate, etc. It also includes questions about how other people view your character: what their reputation is to the outside world.
  8. Mental Attitude and Personal Beliefs: These questions go deep into a character’s personal values, fears, and mental outlook on life. It also helps to identify a character’s core strengths and weaknesses. A personal favorite section of mine, I think this is the most important of the entire questionnaire.
  9. Likes/Favorites: A fun set of identification questions to round out your character’s favorite things.

Now, this is a lot of information to take in. But I would like to point it that this is not mandatory, nor the end-all be-all of character design. It is a tool to help you create and think about what are going to be the driving forces behind your characters that will move the plot forward. Personally, I utilize these solely for my main set of characters: my main character, love interest (if applicable), and important secondary characters who have a constant presence (and even for these, I don’t necessarily answer every question).

What I hope for my readers is that this tool that I am sharing with you will inspire you to dig deeper when creating your characters, help to identify areas you may not have considered during character design, and will help you on your journey to writing a fantastic piece of fantasy literature.