Character Development Exercise – Clarifying Characteristics Will Keep a Character Consistent and Believable

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What words describe who you are?

I am optimistic, practical, critical, intuitive, empathetic, imaginative…

Our personalities are made up of characteristics that will consistently come up in the things we say and do. They make us into the unique individuals we are.

The same can be said for characters in a story.

I made lists of the 10 major characteristics my characters have as a reminder of who they are while I am writing how they interact with themselves and the world around them.

For example, Carine is very expressive so if something was bothering her she would naturally start to talk about it in a conversation. In contrast, Theodore is very reserved so he would likely bite his tongue in a similar situation.

Sometimes I have troubles while I am writing because I am not sure how a character would respond to the situation they are in or what they would say to someone. Clarifying their characteristics will help me keep everyone consistent and believable.

My Problem and How an Expert Storyteller Helped Me Solve It

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Strangers / Blue is by Spanish photographer Rocio Montoya. To see more of her work click on the image.


Lately, I’ve been having a problem with someone I’d thought I was close with. This problem has completely stalled my progression in writing A Gift from Aurth. The only way to deal with it is to hash it out with them now. If I don’t, the story will never get written. But you’ll never guess who the person is. His name is Theodore Mullens.

Yes, I’m afraid so. The person who is causing me all this grief is my own character! The problem I’m having with him is that we are actually not as close as I thought we were. I barely know the guy. Not knowing him well enough makes it hard to write a story about him. Seems kinda ludicrous, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m the one who made him up!

Creating a character is much harder than I thought it would be. There are many things I could tell you about Theodore. I know the year he was born, I can tell you his favourite subject in school and I could pick what he would eat off of any restaurant menu. But knowing bits of information about someone does not mean you actually know who they are. The facts I know are trivial parts of his life I could find out during our first conversation at a party where we’re forced to mingle for a few minutes. Though Theodore is a character in a story, he represents a person. People are far more complex and complicated than their surface-level selves. To write the story I want to write, I have to develop Theodore past the awkward party chit-chat and bond with him on the level of a childhood best friend. If I am unable to do this now, then you’ll stand no chance at it when it comes time to get to know him through reading the story.

How am I going to do this? Well, I have my work cut out for me. When I started writing this post I was hoping for a eureka moment. And I think I may have had it, thanks to an expert storyteller.

 A few weeks ago I posted a TED Talk by filmmaker Andrew Stanton. In his talk, he shares some of his tips to writing a great story. Stanton is the creator of box-office hits such as “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E,” so the man knows what he is talking about. The first time I listened to him, I jotted down notes on basically everything he said. There was, however, one phrase I underlined and starred. He says, “All well-drawn characters have a spine.” The idea behind a character’s spine is that everyone has a subconscious goal that drives them forward. It determines the decisions, words and actions a character makes. Harry Potter’s is the courage to defend the people and things he believes in, Atticus Finch’s from “To Kill a Mockingbird” is equal justice for all and the White Rabbit’s from “Alice in Wonderland” is to not be late for his very important date.

So what Theodore Mullens needs is a spine. I’ve thought about this for a couple of days and I think what motivates Theodore is protection. Not a need to protect others, but instead a need to protect himself. My vision of him at the beginning of the story is someone who is guarded and reserved. He has a fear of appearing vulnerable around other people. He shields himself from his fear by not putting himself out there to experience new things or meet new people. I can’t, however, write an entire story about a guy walking around with two shields in his hands, repelling the world around him. Stanton again has a suggestion. He makes reference to the spine being a temperament that is likely unchangeable, but what can happen in the progression of the story is “recognizing it and owning it.” To me that means Theodore will always have his shields but he will have to learn to put them down sometimes so he can allow himself to experience the world around him. I am not exactly sure how that will work for Theodore just yet, but it has put me one step closer to solving my problem with him and working on our friendship.

This idea of a driving force in a character’s life isn’t limited to fiction. Characters are based on people, so real-life people – you and me – must have a dominant goal that drives us forward too. The best way for me to describe mine is as a positive force that compels me to constantly seek beauty in my life and for others. What do you think yours is? Share it in the comments or on Twitter.

Watch Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk on Clues to a Great Story and Read About My Promise to You

This week I am going to share something a little different with you. It’s a TED Talk from one of the filmmakers behind some of Disney and Pixar’s top films, Andrew Stanton. “WALL-E,” “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story” are all Stanton’s creations. During the talk he brings up several points I found relatable as both a writer and a person. He talks about how a well-developed story can inspire wonder with its audience. These two things – wonder and relatability – are what I love to experience in a story. Don’t you agree?

“Finding Nemo” is one of my favourite movies because of Stanton’s success with its development. If you have not seen “Finding Nemo,” you must. It’s the story of a relationship between a father, Marlin, and his son, Nemo. Marlin is not ready for Nemo to grow up. When Nemo gets fed up with Marlin’s resistance to giving him independence, he rebels. But his rebellion gets him into some trouble. The film follows Marlin as he tries to help his son and restore order. It’s a lovely, well-crafted story about what a parent is willing to do for their child. On some level, we have all wanted independence, and perhaps some of us have gotten into trouble in doing so. Perhaps… 😉  I am not a parent, but I can feel Marlin’s pain and worry throughout the film. We all understand his love for Nemo. The relatability is clear, but where is the wonder? Well, Marlin and Nemo are clownfish living in a sea anemone on the Great Barrier Reef!

The reason I am sharing this with you instead of my usual “A Gift from Aurth” post is because I have nothing ready this week. I did not reach my deadline. Actually, I ignored it! I ignored it because I was focusing on writing an ebook for the blog and developing the story further. This, in combination with my job, left me no time to write the post I had intended for this week. Going forward, my posts will become a bit less consistent than they have been. I want to provide you with fresh content, but I also want to focus on writing the story. It’s impossible to do it all.

The best way to find out about new posts is to subscribe to the blog. By doing so, you will also be informed when the story concept ebook will be ready to download. You can subscribe to the blog here.

In the beginning of Stanton’s talk, he gives a quote that references a scene he shares from his film “John Carter.” Stanton talks about the responsibility of storytellers to their viewers and readers. He says, “Making a promise to you that this story will lead you somewhere that is worth your time.”

This is a promise I would like to make to you. I promise this blog is worth following to see the development of “A Gift from Aurth.” I promise, it will be worth it. 🙂

Check out Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk about the clues to a great story. Press play!

Where Magic Exists on Earth is Where the Theme for A Gift From Aurth Begins to Take Shape

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‘Dreaming’ is by American painter, Josh Keyes. Click here to see more of his work.

In my past posts you’ve read about the magic of Aurth. I’ve explained some properties to describe how it works and I’ve hinted at ways it affects the world of Aurth. What if I told you magic is not a substance only found on Aurth? What if I told you magic exists right here on Earth? It’s not as obvious as the magic of Aurth so you probably have not noticed it. This type of magic is subtle. It’s present in an everyday, ordinary sort of way. To see it, you have to look for it. Even then, it’s not that easy to see because you have to truly want to see it for exactly what it is. This means looking with an open mind and a whole heart. If you look for magic in any other way, such as with an intention of self gain fueled by greed or to use it as a manipulative tool to control others, you will not see it. You will not see the magic because you will not see it for what it truly is. You will only see it for what you want it to be. So before I tell you where the magic is, take a moment to think about how you look at the world around you. Is your mind open? Is your heart full? Are you ready to see the magic?

The magic of Earth can be found in three known places. Magic is alive in
the existence of life. We share magic through the connections we form with one another. Magic is expressed through us when we open ourselves up to the power of creativity.

What exactly does that look like? Here are some examples of where I have seen and experienced magic.

Life

I live on the beautiful B.C. coast of Canada. Going on hikes in this area is one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. As I walk through the old growth forests, I can sense the life-breathing effects of magic all around me. It is present in the trunks of the towering trees, hidden in the layers of moist moss and it beats through the hearts of each creature who calls the forest home. Magic gives a soul to all living things in the forest. The combination of these souls creates the life force of the forest. If left in peace, the magic in the forest will keep it healthy and will create generations of life to come.

Connection

When I go to a concert the venue pulsates with magic. This environment is where magic brews and it is were magic is shared between people. Magic is the sense of excitement felt between the crowd, the crew and the performers. The event has brought a group of like-minded people together with a sense of purpose and a common interest.  When the music starts and the beat reverberates against my chest and through my ears, magic is what gives me the urge to dance, to sing and clap. My excitement is felt by the people around me and encourages them to do the same. It’s an infectious energy that spreads through the crowd and gets stronger as each person gives into it. Magic makes us call for an encore and magic is what stops the band from refusing our desire for more.

Creativity

The words you are reading in this post were conceived through magic. As I write, I open myself up to its creative possibilities. Magic is inspiration and the expression of self.  It gives a visual form to the once unseen, and the unknown, by sparking the light of an idea where there was once only blank, dark space. Channeling the power of magic through my mind and hands allows me to create something out of nothing. In turn, it allows you to absorb the new idea and interpret it for yourself.

Are you beginning to see the magic?

There are many people who do not see magic in the same way. These people would deny the existence of magic all together. When the existence of magic is denied, its value is diminished. When its value is diminished it becomes vulnerable to threats. Fear, control and destruction start to take over.

This is where the theme of A Gift From Aurth begins to take shape. The story is about the value of magic. Not just the magic of the world around us but also the magic found within ourselves. What happens when it’s value is diminished? How does this affect life, connections and creativity? Continue to follow the A Gift From Aurth blog to read how these questions push the theme of the story forward.

Please share any comments you may have and subscribe to the blog here if you’ve liked what you’ve read.

Here are some suggestions of other posts similar to this one:

Aurth – A Living Being
Is there any hope for “The Lost, Forgotten and Discard”? 

What’s in it for you? This is what to expect from A.G.F.A. in 2016

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In a week, at the end of 2015, the A Gift From Aurth blog will be just over two months old! I know, two months is not very old but I have to tell you, for this two-month-old blogger, it has been a monumental time. I’ve been whipped around on a blogging roller coaster learning curve, had my ego bruised by my lovely editor (she really is lovely) and spent hours tracking down the copyright holders of the images I have wanted to feature in each post. To support my work, I’ve started to make lifestyle changes such as having only two glasses of wine with friends instead of a bottle and carving time out my social schedule to focus on meeting writing deadlines. Most importantly, I’ve taken actions toward making a dream of mine come true.

This is all well and good for me… but what is in it for you?

My most valuable offering is the story this blog is all about. In case you are new to the blog, what is this story? A Gift From Aurth is the story of Theodore Mullens during his time in the magical world of Aurth. People who arrive in Aurth are given a gift from the world in the form of a power. Theodore is the first and only person to arrive and not receive one. The story takes him on a journey to discover why he is the only one without a gift.

So far, through the blog, I have been explaining how the world of Aurth works and have introduced you to a few characters. I plan to continue on this track but what is the point of it all if there is no story to go along with it? Well, starting in the spring, I am going to begin releasing downloadable chapters for you to read! The year 2016 is going to be spent turning the story floating around in my imagination into reality.

The best way for you to find out about these chapter downloads is to subscribe to the blog. Here is a link to the subscription form. Subscribing is the best way for you to get notified when chapters become available to download and read about other Aurth news. (Maybe even a future invite to my book launch party!)

I am looking forward to the possibilities 2016 will bring for both me and you. I learned in 2015 that dreams will come true only if you take steps to nurture them and spend the time required to help them grow. Do you have a dream waiting to be fulfilled in 2016? As I work towards mine, I hope you are inspired to begin, or continue, to work towards yours. Really, that’s what’s in it for us both.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog 🙂

Introduction

Hi, my name is Todd. I am the author of a not yet published, or even really written, book called “A Gift from Aurth”. The story begins when Theodore Mullens is taken to a magical world where the lost, forgotten and discarded of our world end up. This world of our displaced is called Aurth. Many things find their way there but Aurth has an empathetic sentiment towards any human who appears on its soil. When people arrive they are given a gift. This gift comes in the form of a power. There is a man with a breath of fire, a child who can see lies as they are being spoken, a beautiful woman who bends light as she dances and many others who can do an abundance of wondrous gifts. Everyone who goes to Aurth is given a gift. Everyone except for Theodore. When he arrives, he does not receive one. Of course, because of this, an adventure ensues for him to figure out why he is the only one without a gift.

Does “A Gift from Aurth” sound like a book youʼd like to read? I really hope so!

This blog will be about the storyʼs development. Itʼs a platform for me to create its bible of myths, share my inspirations and show the background work that goes into writing the finished story. Iʼll be posting things like character bios, concepts behind the theme, experts from the story and just about anything else it takes to get “A Gift from Aurth” out of my head and onto pages between a hardcover.

Following this blog will mean you are following the journey of two people. One is of a character of fiction, Theodore, and the other is of the man behind the fiction, me. Join me as I write the story of why Theodore is not given a gift from Aurth.

Do you already have some questions? Iʼd be very interested in hearing them. Ask away or share some love in the comment box below.