Posts tagged ‘mark’

April 17th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #12

by Madeleine Rex

It appears I’m finally posting a Wannabe Writers post on a Saturday! (Which, by the way, is the day you’re supposed to.) Wannabe Writers is hosted by Sarah over at Confessions of the Un-Published.

Where I am in the Writing Process: I’m still on my break, but the day for edits is creeping up on me. My mom probably won’t have time to go through it with me until the later half of May, but there’s a chance we can squeeze some time in on the 3oth and 1st. I’m hoping this is the case. I’m trying to decide whether I want to go through it and edit the obvious stuff (ie. deleting a repeat of a word, making sure I used the correct there) before I sit down with her or not. I’ve also been toying around with ideas in my head. I was lucky enough to have nearly an entire novel’s plot slither into my brain about a week ago, but unfortunately, the project will have to be put off. I can’t focus on it right now, and Forbidden needs to be my next project.

My Current Problems: I originally intended to work on a different mini-project during my month of free time, but I haven’t. I haven’t even written a short story. I’m just working on finding the money to subscribe to a possible magazine option. I suppose that, stated simply, my problem is laziness. I’ve earned it, though, right? Just for a month?

The Question this Week: Character descriptions. How do you describe a character’s appearance? And how do you work it into a story without making it sound fake? How much is too much? Why can’t I just say, “she had blue eyes and blond hair” the end? And where do you work it into a story? When your MC first meets said character? And where do you work this in for your MC? And do you even need to work this in for your MC?

Great question, as usual.

I don’t describe my character’s overall looks very thoroughly. I try to create a sense of a real person through smaller details or the strong points of their face. Things that make them stand out. Brownish-red hair is not something I’m going to dwell on. It’s too common and doesn’t reflect character at all. Naturally, I might mention it a few times, but it’s not a focal point of their appearance. For example: Allison (my MC) first saw Mark in a school picture. When we look at pictures, it’s slightly different than when we look at the actual person. We examine them when we look at their picture. This allowed me to mention that his hair was “windblown… looked like hot chocolate with the whipped cream stirred in”. Yet, it was his slightly large mole on his nose and his empty earring piercing that stood out in the description. It’s the little things. Later on, his eyes and the fact that they seemed to reflect light when there wasn’t any became his physical focal point. His eyes and their light-finding ways were symbolic.

On the other hand, you have June. June is Allison’s best friend, and I can’t even remember if I mentioned what she looked like at all. It didn’t matter. Her character was so strong in its likability that I think her near faceless-ness is ideal. I want readers to think of her as a friend and to have their way with her.

Am I making any sense? I suppose what I’m trying to say is, no, “blond hair and blue eyes” is not enough. That is not a person. Or a face, for that matter. People need to be distinguishable. June was so much so that her face didn’t matter. She was the friend whose face I wanted every reader to create. I wanted the reader to imagine a face that seemed friendly and welcoming to them particularly. I’d say that you either want relatively nothing in the way of physical description (as with June), or you want to focus on the individually significant features (as with Mark).

With Allison, I mentioned differences in appearance. When she looks in a mirror near the end, she mentions her sallowness. Those things effected the story and reflected her growth in one direction or another.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t mention your MC’s blond hair, but if they have, let’s say, rough hands with dirt under the fingernails from digging for lost treasure, I’d mention that, too. It’s a part of them that is individual. Unique. It expresses character, just as Mark’s light-finding eyes do. June’s lack of facial description expressed her relatable nature.

I believe that whenever you’re dealing with characters, their originality is key. Focus on their original features as well. Go ahead and mention that they have black hair. Make it come alive, though. Don’t forget to mention that their black hair is always neatly braided into four braids with pink bows on the ends or that they have a tear-shaped birthmark  near their collarbone.

Maybe you should look in the mirror and described yourself in full detail. When you’re finished, sit down and weed out the things that don’t matter. Use yourself as an example. Try to use as little words as possible while still expressing who you know yourself to be and what you believe is individual about your face. I would mention my massive amount of curly brown hair because it’s not just brown hair. It’s a lion’s mane. I’d mention that my eyes turn downward at the corners instead of upward, etc. Finding out what it takes to make you you will help you determine what is needed to describe a character sufficiently.

April 14th, 2010

Getting to Know: Mark + Creating Characters

by Madeleine Rex

I immensely enjoyed my “Getting to Know: Allison” post, so I’ve interview my male MC (Mark) as well. I had to omit certain facts and act as though I were interviewing him before the end of the book for various reasons, but what you find below is all him.

  • How old are you? 19
  • If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you? Probably my grandfather’s journal.
  • Describe your hands. They’re large. I have long fingers.
  • Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it? Currently, I don’t have any of those things. If I did, there would probably be a few books on top of the dresser and bottles scattered about the room. Things I was trying to hide would be in my nightstand and bathroom cabinets.
  • What is your favorite food? Homemade mac & cheese. I haven’t had it for at least four years.
  • Describe your economic/political status. Economically, I’m doing pretty poorly. I don’t have a job because only a dim-witted person would hire me due to certain circumstances. I’ve been too distracted to focus an ounce of my attention on politics.
  • Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars. I don’t have any scars, but I have a huge mole on my nose and a Matrix tattoo on my arm.
  • What is the last book you read? What did you think of it? Great Expectations by Dickens. I enjoyed it, though the beginning was slow.
  • Do you have an embarrassing habit? Drinking… But I guess that’s more shameful than embarrassing.
  • Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure. The memory of a stranger’s arm around my mother’s shoulder.
  • What is a dream (in sleep) you often have? Allison bringing me Starbucks for breakfast and us eating together, talking about the recent developments. I have it over and over.
  • Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? Joining the Navy.
  • How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.) I sleep on hardwood floors, nearly choking on the humidity in the air.
  • What is the last thing you wrote? I can’t remember.
  • What grosses you out?  Alcohol, ironically.
  • Who is the person you like the least? Why? It should be my brother, but it’s not. I’d have to go with the irritating librarian at the Junior High.
  • What is something you feel guilty about?  Myriad things. Innumerable things. I can’t count.
  • Describe what you do when you look in a mirror. I try to wash my face with the paper towels and mucky water that dribbles from the rusty faucet. Or simply wipe grease from my face.
  • Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot. If I’m alone, I’m sitting on the cap of a hill, leaning against a bristly bush that feels soft, now, because it’s so familiar. When I have Allison’s company, it’s sitting across from her, on the other side of the train tracks.
  • Tell me about a very treasured item. My grandfather’s war journal. He fought in Vietnam.
  • Do you have a nervous tic or habit? I haven’t noticed one, but Allison or Sean might have.
  • Tell me about your siblings…if you have them. I have a sister named Amy. She lives in California with her family, and I haven’t seen her for years. Since my parents divorced, I suppose. My older brother, Sean, he… I’m sorry, but I’d rather not delve into Sean. I’ve realized that I don’t understand him.
  • What is your favorite sound? The sound the shed door makes when there’s a breeze as it shivers in its door frame. It speaks of home.
  • What is your favorite smell? Soap.

Really, folks, this is a blast. I recommend taking a whack at interviewing your characters in such a way, and I’d certainly love to read those interviews if you chose to post them.

I don’t create my characters through this process, though (obviously, because I’m done with the first draft). The interviewing is simply 1) fun and 2) helpful in getting to know your characters better. Not creating them. I create my characters through Character Analyses. I wrote analyses for almost every character that had a name and appeared in the book. Some of them didn’t even make it in, yet they’re real to me. I discovered the Character Analyses system through Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Actually, I used every bit of the plotting process that George wrote about. I read the book last year, just after having dropped Forbidden. I knew that I was in dire need of a substantial plotting process and was thrilled to find that George and I were incredibly similar. Her process was percisely what I needed, though the next time around, I’m switching things up a bit.

So, what’s your process for creating characters? Or plotting in general? Is it similar to one you read about or that of a friend?