Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Recap

This month has been unexpectedly busy. But it's been good - I've read a few books, made some progress with my writing, gotten some financial mumbo-jumbo sorted out for starting college in August, and finished a Bible study on secrets. I'm feeling good about my productivity.
Also, it was announced this month that my primary online writing group, Go Teen Writers, is shutting down the Facebook group. I was pretty shocked about that - I've been part of it for over a year and it made me realize that there are other people out their who understand what it is like to love writing. I've gotten so many laughs and picked up on so much inspiration from that group - I'll be really sad to see it go. Thankfully several groups were started up independently by several members, so I've joined a few of those hoping to fill up the void.
Anyway, here is the recap of what's been going on around here in June.

Blog Happenings
I want to start by saying that for the last couple months, my post "Why Character Chats Are Awesome" has been a huge success. It's all over Pinterest and has over 1,500 views to date. Most of my other posts have been lucky to hit 100. But my first post this month, "Blurring the Lines: What Are Anti-Heroes and Anti-Villains?" has become my most popular post now - it is spreading on Pinterest and has even been linked to on what appears to be a popular tumblr blog. Which is awesome so thank you, everyone.
Also this month:

This month I read six novels:
I reviewed Legend, Words of Radiance, Resistance, and Golden Son in one post, The King's Scrolls and Challenger Deep in a second, Cinder in a third, and By Darkness Hid in a fourth (links to my reviews). 

And I added a few books to my bookshelf this month as well.
  • The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten (I couldn't find it in my library but I really want to read it so I had to buy it)
  • The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight (had to order online)
  • Lament by Maggie Stiefvater (thrift shop - I've never read anything by this author and I hear she's good, so I thought I'd give it a try)
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (thrift shop buy - I've read the series but have none of the books, so this can start my collection).
Also, I pre-ordered the e-book (don't particularly enjoy that format, but I had to in this case) Half Blood by Jaye L. Knight for the kindle app on my phone, so I can read that in July. Can't wait!
My favorite book of the month was probably Challenger Deep, with By Darkness Hid and Resistance tied for second. My least favorite? None of the books were bad, but The King's Scrolls took last place because of the lack of feeling it left me with.

While it's been a light reading month, I've been working heavily in Shadows and Light. I finished plotting Ace's character arc, and then I worked on getting it all matched up with Mara's . . . and that was giving me a headache. But I got all my plot points onto sticky notes and covered a decent portion of wall with them so that I could see it all together. Something about handwriting got me brainstorming ways to work around the problems I created for myself, so I actually managed to get it sorted out in time for July Camp NaNoWriMo . . . oh yeah, I signed up for that.
In addition to that, I've worked out the kinks in my chronology and decided to add a subtly allegorical theme to Shadows and Light, mostly in the Mage League, which I will probably rename. I'm going to be working out the details of that as I write, I think.
Also, not sure if this counts or not, but I spent some time drawing Tempe  this month, which was fun and gave me just the image I want of her. I also finally got to see Tempe and Mara side-by-side, which is incredible. I would not want to see that pair strolling down the street.
Both drawings by Annika Smith.

Related to no project, I found this on Pinterest and really want to write a high fantasy novel with a race of pointy-eared people in it. I even went so far as to create my first race of people based on this photo, complete with a little 2-page race profile. It doesn't have a story-home, though, and honestly I don't need another WIP . . . yet. Maybe I'll get to use it some day. 
Other Internet Happenings

Favorite Pins of the Month
Ahhhhh the plot bunnies.
So creepy . . . I want an excuse to write a scene in this setting.

What Is to Come
  • Aimee Meester @ To the Barricade! asked me to guest post for her in July! I'm so excited.
  • In return, she is guest-posting July 14th here, so be around for that.
  • I'm going to do a few posts on different cliches around here, so keep an eye out for those.
  • Don't be surprised if my Friday posts stop appearing once or twice during the upcoming month - if you wonder what I'm doing, I'll be furiously trying to achieve my word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm also not certain how much reading I'll actually get done, so we'll see about Sunday Book Reviews. Don't worry, I've got the Tuesday posts covered (mostly).
  • It was requested that I share pictures of my cats. I shall do this on a Friday post sometime this month, so be prepared for cuteness.
  • I also have a more rant-style post coming up, called "The Problem with Too Many Books." Don't worry, I'm still an avid book fan - and I think you'll all relate on this one.

Questions I Now Want You to Answer:
  1. Do you like all my book reviews of the week getting lumped into one post? Or would you prefer me to publish individual ones as soon as I write them throughout the week in addition to my other posts?
Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? What will you be working on for it? And ooh, have you read any of the books I mentioned? Have you ever created a whole big story or piece of world building just from seeing a picture? 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

By Darkness Hid

Again, I read only one book this week. I must have spent all my time writing blog posts ahead of time for July, as I'm not anticipating a whole load of time to write posts with Camp NaNoWriMo going on. I didn't even have time to write an in-depth review, so, this is quite short.

LOVED IT. Achan and Vrell were great protagonists, and unlike some books I didn't see the ultimate plot twist coming from a mile away - the foreshadowing was good. Achan was my favorite character with his penchant for trouble mixed with a sometimes unquestioning acceptance of tough events in life, which I presume came from his position as a stray. I loved the concept of bloodvoicing, which was like telepathy except with a few more limitations which made it unique. I loved the world this was set in, with Darkness and strays and all the political factions. I have many questions still, like "what makes a stray a stray?" and "what are the differences between a stray and a slave?" and "how did the Darkness come to be?" and "How many Hadars are there?!" I'm hoping I find out the answers in the next books. *runs to go find them somewhere*

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Liebster Award

This is quite overdue, but a week or two ago Natasha Roxby @ Memoirs of a Tale Weaver nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thanks!

The rules are: 
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the questions given to you by said person.
  3. Choose eleven questions of your own.
  4. Nominate eleven more people!
Here are Natasha's questions:

1. Who is your favorite character from your WIP? Why?
Difficult question. For a character I'd actually like if he/she were real . . .maybe Tyv, if he'd let me get close to him, or Gabriel. They're nice. But if we're talking which-character-is-your-masterpiece I'd say Tempe or Nitri. Both of them are really complex - but Tempe scares me. So Nitri is probably my favorite, though he's a bit unhinged himself.
Boy. That was tough to figure out. xD

2. Outside of writing, is there anything that you really, passionately love doing?
I would say reading, but that is a different kind of passion. This may sound weird but, I actually really like studying. *blocks ears against shouts of disbelief* Obviously it depends on the subject, but if I find a subject I like (say literature mixed with history and biblical theology) I'll really enjoy myself.

3. What made you want to start your blog?
I wanted a place to talk about writing and stories with other people who like the same things. However, I've continued it though for the blogging community I've now become a part of.

4. What is one of your funniest childhood memories?
I don't have many. One I do remember involves hitting my younger sister on the head with a rubber Tele-tubby toy when she tried squeezing between me and the fridge instead of going around me, which would have been easier.

5. Do you have any pets? If so, what are they?
Four cats. A parakeet. Sometimes they embody Sonic's chaos monster, so can I add that to the list?

6. Is there one particular trait that most of your characters have? If so, what is that?
Strong beliefs. All of them have at least one important thing that they have extremely strong opinions about. Tyv refuses to break his word, Tempe believes that she is on a quest of justice, Ambyr believes that kindness is the way to fix the world, Gabriel believes people can choose the direction of their lives no matter what, Keir refuses to break loyalty to his country, and Nitri just believes very strongly in his own importance and independence. All of them would fight over those beliefs.

7. If you could be any type of mythological creature, what would you be?
Elf? Maybe? I'm pretty happy being a human . . .

8. You have been handed a blank check by a billionaire. What do you do with it?
I don't quite get this question. I'm going to assume a blank check means any amount of money? I'd donate a portion to my church, invest some in different programs and charities to help abused kids and kids who are starving, and I'd stash the rest away in a bank account to pay for mine and my sister's college tuition.

9. If you could live absolutely anywhere in the world, where would it be?
England, or Switzerland. They stay neutral in every war. xD

10. Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser?
I typically think of myself as a Plotter, though I do Pants every now and then on small things, like those in-between scenes that only exist to get the story from one small plot-point scene to another, and these blog posts. So maybe I am a Plantser.

11. Do you keep a journal/notebook? If so, what is it about?
Yup. I have a diary, a spiritual journal, and a writing notebook for any ideas that strike me when I'm out or writing random snippets of things to keep myself occupied when I'm bored.

My questions for the nominees:

1. What got you into writing?
2. How many projects have you written/are you working on?
3. What is some of the weirdest research you've ever done - for writing, school projects, whatever?
4. Who is your favorite fictional character ever, and why? (I know, it's a toughie).
5. I'll rip off Natasha's question and ask:  what are you passionate about apart from writing?
6. Post a link to your favorite song.
7. What is your favorite blog post of all of the ones you've ever written?
8. What do you think of as your best trait?
9. What is your favorite candy/sweet?
10. Out of all your character babies, who is your favorite? (sorry again for sort of ripping off Natasha's question - it was a good one).
11. If you could choose any author to be your writing mentor, who would you choose?

Oh goodness . . . now I have to nominate a bunch of people. I don't know that many! Oh well . . . I'll nominate whoever I can think of.
Anyone else who is interested!

So, am I truly the only one here who sometimes enjoys school? Do any of your characters have one belief they will not compromise on? Do you have any journals or notebooks? How many?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

6 Assorted, Well-Done Characters

With all that talk of villains and antagonists, heroes and protagonists, and anti-heroes and anti-villains these past two months, I thought it only fair to share some of the best book characters for each of those categories today. I gave plenty of examples in my posts during that series, but today, I'm only dealing with characters who are well-done. Favorites, if you will, though I doubt that term could be applied to the villain category.

Hero/Heroine: Percy Jackson of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus 
by Pheonixefreet on deviantART
There are so many funny quotes from this dude that I didn't know which one to choose - which is something that I think sets Percy apart from most classic heroes, nowadays. He isn't boring (*cough cough* movie Harry Potter *cough cough*) but he isn't dark and broody (which would make him an anti-hero). Riordan found an excellent way to give a classic hero plenty of personality to go around, and make readers laugh as well. 
It is worth noting, I'm furious about those disasters of movies.

Anti-Hero: Vin of Mistborn
Cover art for Mistborn: The Final Empire
Most anti-heroes seem to be the "dark and brooding dude with the horrible past" nowadays (or is that just me?), so I liked Vin first of all because she was a brilliantly written female protagonist with some anti-social tendencies and trust issues (which puts her very neatly into the anti-hero category). I adored her character arc - how she learned to trust, how she learned that there were things worth fighting for in the world. *hugs her* And don't even get me started on her relationship with Elend.

Villain: Lord Deparnieux of The Icebound Land (The Ranger's Apprentice #3)
I assume that that is Deparnieux on the cover art for The Icebound Land
A classic villain is supposed to really scare you with just how evil they are. Not many have managed to do that like Lord Deparnieux from what is basically just an "in-between" book in The Ranger's Apprentice series. Deparnieux was depraved and cruel, and he liked to show that off. It was awful - I remember my stomach feeling a bit queasy when I read the book for the first time maybe four or five years ago. Don't give me another "I want to rule the world" tyrant-in-training - give me a guy who's proven he's bad news for the world with whatever he already owns and the people he already controls.

Anti-Villain: Marcus Altair of The Ilyon Chronicles
According to Jaye L. Knight's Pinterest boards, this is what Marcus should look like.
It was really tough to even think of a bookish anti-villain, and even Marcus changes character types during the second book of his series, The King's Scrolls. But until then, he is working against the protagonists (so he is serving the plot role of an antagonist) and yet is entirely sympathetic in his devotion to duty and confused loyalty to family. So far, he is one of my favorite characters of the series.

Protagonist: Shallan Davar of The Stormlight Archives
Shallan, from the inside cover art of Words of Radiance.
I couldn't even figure out if Shallan was a classic hero or an anti-hero. What matters to me is that she was a really relatable main character who learned to stand up for herself and seek after things that truly matter. She is curious and brave and comfortable in her societal role as a woman - which I love. Her determination, courage, and personality are what make her a great protagonist.

Antagonist: Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix
You can't have a discussion about villains and antagonists without this woman coming up. Because, really . . .
'nuff said.

Who are some of your favorite characters? Do you share my feelings on any of the ones I mentioned?

Sunday, June 21, 2015


I read a whopping total of ONE novel this week. I know, aren't you all so proud of me? Honestly it's been a writing week - I never can seem to strike a balance between reading and writing, and I have to prep for July's Camp NaNoWriMo anyway. This all means that this post is pretty short. Maybe you're all relieved about that. xD

I'll admit I wasn't hooked at first. Maybe it was all that writing I was talking about, but I started reading and then left it sitting in my bag for five days plus. Then I picked it up again . . .  and couldn't put it down.
I loved Cinder as the protagonist. She was tough, but some of it was a front to protect her softer side, and that was fantastic to see (especially in a female protagonist). Plus I liked that her cyborg parts didn't give her super-strength or anything, which some books have. It made her feel more normal, and therefore more victimized, and then ultimately more sympathetic.
Plus, Levana made a fantastic villain. I look forward to watching the conflict develop in the rest of the series, and see what she has up her sleeve.
Kai was also a very lovable character, burdened with all sorts of feelings and duties. He was a great, multi-dimensional hero. For some reason I picture him looking like Price Eric from Disney's The Little Mermaid, and unlike that guy he had some intelligence to him and wasn't quite as obvious about which girl he liked. But he was still very adorable with how he treated Cinder.
I loved the climax and really enjoyed reading this book (once I'd picked it up to resume it!). I have what feels like a thousand other books to read, but I'll be trying to get the sequel to this one specifically.

Cinder and the rest of it's series seem to be pretty popular - how many of you have read it already? Am I really late to the party? If you're late like me, is this book on your to-read list, or does a sci-fi Cinderella not sound like your thing? 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Character Interview: Tempe Donoghue

I had to revise and re-post this interview - I apologize for any confusion.
It is time! Two weeks ago you all were invited to ask Tempe any question you could think of. Now, finally, I deliver to you all your answers! (It may be helpful, for the purpose of fully understanding this interview, to go read the post where I started the interview. There is some background information about Tempe there.)
*waves my security guards in* I don't trust her. She's a villain, after all.
To those of you who asked questions, you have my love forever. *gives you all cake* You guys are awesome.
Finished this this week, just in time for the interview. :) By Annika Smith. Copied and adapted from this piece by Heteferes @ Deviant Art.

*Tempe walks in, dressed in skin-tight black pants, black heeled boots, and a black v-neck tank top. Her scorpion Sebastian is on her shoulder*
Well, I didn't actually call you in yet - 
No matter. You asked me to come, I decided to show up, and now I'm here. Are you going to complain about a few seconds, darling?
Fine. Couldn't you have left the scorpion at home, though?
I could have, but I didn't want to. Why, does he bother you? *strokes his back with a fingertip*
*watches the stinger* Sure, of course a poisonous scorpion doesn't bother me. As long as he stays over there with you.
You've got quite the case of paranoia, darling. Regardless, don't we have a list of questions to get through?

*wrenches gaze from Sebastian* Yes, we do. Here's the first: Since you like make-up and fashion, but are also an environmentalist, do you choose mineral based make-up products that haven't been tested on animals and other eco-friendly products?
Eco-friendly products, yes, as long as they aren't ridiculously expensive. I don't worry myself about what I use too much, since realistically, one woman deciding not to buy certain things won't make a difference. No, my plan is larger than that. Change will only happen if the entire nation, or even the world, was in on it or forced to comply.
So you're dismissing a campaign you support as useless?
Not at all, darling. Their cause is right, but their methods are not. They need to focus on the populace, not silly boycotts.

I see. What was your first pet? Do you still have it?
My first pet was a Russian Dwarf hamster named Pluto. No, not after the Disney dog. I had a phase when I wanted to be an astronaut.
. . . Really?
Don't look at me like that, darling. Women handle g-forces better than men - I would have been an excellent astronaut.
I think you would have gotten space-shuttle-fever. I guess you don't still have the hamster?
Oh, love, of course not! He died from a disease when I was eleven!

How sad. What kind of dishes do you like to cook? 
Ha! Cook? I wouldn't call it that, darling. It makes it sound like the products of my kitchen are edible.
I know you do do some level of cooking. Quality is besides the point. Answer the question.
*sigh* Most of the time I stay away from ovens and stoves, since they always seem to be involved in the worst disasters. I make a lot of salads, sprinkled with grains and fruit and nuts. I can make instant oatmeal without too much risk, and I'll add some nutmeg and apple to that, but I've never been able to successfully cook an egg. When I am feeling extraordinarily brave I roast beef or grill a steak or chicken breast. There is this wonderful lime and ginger marinade that I use on the chicken, absolutely delicious served with quinoa and spinach.

I have absolutely no idea if that sounds good or not. But aside from cooking, what are your weak spots?
*narrows eyes slyly* Typically love, the fingers are a very weak portion of human anatomy as they are very easy to break.
Don't be devious. 
I'm always devious, darling. *flutters fingers* However, I was merely toying with you. I have been told once or twice that I am intimidating, which means people don't exactly get an instant feeling of trust in my presence. *clicks tongue* Quite annoying, as it makes it harder to get information, but with my height, there isn't much I can do to change it.
You could cut back on the eyeliner and body piercings, not wear heals, and wear a color other than black.
Even without them I would still intimidate some people. If I can't get rid of the effect entirely, why not enhance it and take advantage of it? Besides that, I find it difficult to understand emotional motives of people. Logic and strategy I can predict and prepare for, but people who are driven by emotion are unpredictable. With my low levels of empathy, I sometimes make mistakes in predicting the emotionally-driven actions of others.
I'm surprised at how forthcoming you are.
But why, darling? There is no one reading who can hurt me.
Well, I'm here.
But love, you already know all there is to know about me. *smiles*

I'm not certain of that. What are some kinds of magic you can use?
If Tempe's magic was somehow captured,
it would look like this. Original pin found
here, by David Spriggs.

Ah, now this is a more dangerous question. *pauses to think, Sebastian swaying on her shoulder* First you must understand that there are two fundamental types of magic, and each type has several levels of usage. The first is hard to use, as it requires the magician to form a bond with magic. The magic has to approve of the magician, and then it will allow its power to be used as long as motives remain pure. For this reason, not many people achieve usage of this kind of magic, and once they do achieve it, reliability can be suspect. I used to use this kind of magic, back before I found out about my father's betrayal, since it is the kind the Mage League uses.
A branch of this kind of magic is called Interpretation. It is exceedingly difficult to master since the bond between magic and magician must be strong enough that the magician can actually sense some of magic's . . . personality, if you will excuse me for lack of a better term. Using the bond, an Interpreter will look at a person's Birthmark and then spend a few hours meditating while connected to magic. After a while - the time varies depending on magician and Birthmark - the magician will know the Destiny behind the birthmark. I am an Interpreter, and a very powerful one at that. Strong Interpreters don't even have to see a birthmark in order to find out someone's Destiny.
The second type of magic is the opposite of the first. It is easy to access and is drawn to strong emotion, which means that this is the kind of magic that people with the right genes can use accidentally even if they've never even thought about magic before. This magic doesn't choose who will use it and so is accessible for any purpose. It is the kind I use now that I am no longer a Mage, but a sorceress.
(Actually, I am currently revising the entire system of "magic" and will probably be changing this to a Christian allegory, and will re-design my world-building - so Tempe's information is sort of out-of-date).

Wow. Thanks for the magicology lesson. Do you regret killing all the people at your trial?
Would you be horrified if I said "no?"
Yes, but I didn't expect you to say "yes" -
No, I don't. Do you know why? They were all there to celebrate the Mage League's victory, my shaming, and Zak's death. They wanted to be close to my battle with the Mage League - they only got the expected for getting too close.

*frowns* Well, we have differing opinions on that. Is your father still living? If so, do you two have any confrontations in the book?
Yes, much to my chagrin, he lives. I've been trying to find out where - he's under a witness protection program right now, I think. I don't know about any book, love, but I have no idea where he is so I doubt I'll be able to fulfill my chiefest dream and . . . confront him anytime soon.

So are you still bottling a lot of resentment and anger?
*laughs darkly* I let it out in small doses, love, so I don't explode all at once. But don't worry - *picks Sebastian up from her shoulder and cups him in her hands* - I have plenty stored for when I need it.

I know. If you could change your Destiny, would you?
*pauses* What an odd question, darling. Most consider Destiny to be something unchangeable. But then again . . . a Destiny can be faked, as I have learned. *lets Sebastian walk out onto her shoulder* No, I don't believe I would, love. I've had it changed once and it turned my life upside-down. I've grown quite comfortable in my new upside-down world, and if it got turned upright again I think I wouldn't adjust very well.

Interesting. How did you meet Zak? 
*cocks her head to the side and smiles slyly* It was all my own fault, darling, me and my curiosity about what I still thought back then was the dark side. I was still working as a Mage and Interpreter in the Mage League, but my loyalty had long been gone. When I saw Zak just inside town I recognized his Destiny immediately, though he had disguised himself so that I couldn't recognize him from the photograph on his "wanted" posters. He was going into a motel, so I offered to let him stay in my spare bedroom instead. He accepted after some persuasion, and that night I dropped hints about my own distaste for the Mage League. He ended up leaving within a few days, but he came back to see me several times and eventually confessed to me who he was - though I of course already knew. I didn't let on though, because if he'd known I was an Interpreter he would have known I worked in the Mage League. *chuckles* That didn't stay a secret for much longer though.

What did Zak have against the Mage League?
Darling, remember me mentioning how some people can use the second kind of magic accidentally? That was the case with Zak. His mother worked at a small convenience store, and one day when he dropped in to visit her he walked in on a hold-up. She was being held at gun-point by some escaped criminal. His emotions flared and he used his first magic, and ended up paralyzing the would-be thief. But instead of the Mage League and police department being grateful for his help in capturing a criminal, they made him one for his use of magic without a Mage Certification. Bureaucratic nonsense.

I didn't know that. Here's an interesting one: if you could bring Zak back to life by ending the war, would you do it? 
He wouldn't want me to. He would rather the fight against the injustice of the Mage League be carried on than himself getting longer to live. I miss him dearly, but given the opportunity I know he would rather stay dead and me stay fighting. One of us doing it is better than none. *reaches up to stroke Sebastian fondly*

What are your deepest fears?
*snorts* You want to hear my childhood nightmares of the monsters under the bed, do you? Mine isn't under the bed, it is alive and it permeates the continent. Do you know how many people have been made lonely and persecuted by the Mage League? Myself, Zak, and thousands of people who find themselves in a stressful situation with the right genes to sense magic. An accident, and they become criminals. A Destiny they can't control, and they're victimized until they snap and are slapped with the criminal label they've really worn since birth. Poor Mara dear is another example of the injustice. It needs to end. My fear is that it never will, and I will die as just another victory to add to the Mage League's propaganda campaign.

I see how passionate you are about this. Speaking of Mara, what do you think Ace and Mara's fears are?
*puckers lips* That poor victimized girl. She is scared that she will never be respected as she should be. That she will never be loved, or be able to walk down a street without drawing glares of judgement. *sighs in exasperation* She is also terrified of the idea of her Destiny coming true, which is ridiculous. It wouldn't be the end of the world - mine was fulfilled and I'm doing just fine.
I have never really met Julian Harrod, or Ace, as everyone seems to call him. I can't speak for him, but from what Mara, the darling, has told me, he is positively possessed with thoughts of Destiny. Everything is Destiny-this and Destiny-that. I wouldn't be surprised if deep down under it all he's actually terrified of not fulfilling his Destiny somehow. It makes me wonder . . . never mind. But don't you think it is deliciously ironic that their fears are opposites? *grins*

Much like their Destinies. What do you think Mara's weak spots are? Will you take advantage of that? 
*laughs, trailing off into a sigh* Mara has a few things to work on, love. Number one, being her emotional control. One strong gust of feeling and she's flying off to do who knows what. The other is how much she cares about other people's opinions, and I'll admit to taking advantage of that one. *smirks* She wanted someone to understand and commiserate with her, and I provided such a person. It wasn't very hard to win her trust. A few words of encouragement and she came to visit me nearly every day after school.
How sweet of you. *blank stare*
Don't judge me, love. Mara gained a much-needed friend and mentor, and I gained a companion and apprentice in my lonely existence. We both benefited.

I'll ignore the fact that you're understating your actions. What are Ace's weak spots?
He is much too overconfident in his own abilities. He's so swelled with thoughts of his own importance in the world that one day he will spontaneously explode, destroying himself. Just like a balloon pumped with too much air. From what I hear his arrogance and obsession with Destiny is alienating his team, making him ineffective in squelching the divides between other team members. His Mage Team is full of cracks - all I have to do is land a blow in the right spot and it will shatter.

Right, well that is the end of the questions. Thank you very much, Tempe, for coming, even if you did arrive too early. . . where did she go? *looks around* She's gone already. At least she took the scorpion with her. At least, I hope she did . . . *starts looking under the furniture*

Tempe is an interesting antagonist - certainly a contrast to my other WIP's antag, Keir, who isn't actually evil and doesn't actually scare me sometimes. What is your antagonist like? Do they refuse to break cliche and wear something other than black, like Tempe? xD Thanks for reading, everyone, and to those of you who submitted questions, I'll say again that you're amazing. If anyone has further questions, I'll be happy to answer them in the comments. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

2 Solutions to Plotting and Chronology Problems

This week, I was stuck. Stuck in the quagmire of plotting my reeeeeediculously complicated work-in-progress Shadows and Light, with its double hero/villain narrators with all their plot points, which have to match up since their character arcs are necessarily entwined; and chronology, so that the narrators don't operate in different dimensions. Everything in this book affects something else, so it's been a bit of a nightmare to plot.
I'm sure some of you can relate. You get frustrated, you have no idea what you should do next, and wonder if the book is worth all the work and if you shouldn't just elope with a new plot-bunny love.
I have two things to say to you if you ever have had or ever will have (save the post for future reference, alright?) this problem. Every writer will eventually have this issue, so you can all bookmark this blog now.
First: yes, your novel is worth the work. Don't give up! No one accomplishes anything by giving up, so keep going. If you need to, take a break, but don't let yourself abandon the project for dead. You will get past this bump in the road and your novel will be infinitely better for it.
Second . . . I may have a few ideas to help you get past the aforementioned bump in the road. Today I got over my bump, so I'm going to share what helped me in my plotting with all of you. I love that word. It makes me sound like the world ruler I aspire to be.

Use sticky notes. I tried this plotting method for the first time this week, and I swear it solved half of my problems. Up until now I just used plain ole' word document outlines and even the Scrivener cork board, which worked fine until I hit snags in my character arc/plot point progression. Scrivener was great but it only lets you see a limited amount of your plot at any one time. So anyway, sticky notes are amazing. Here is what to do:

  1. Find a wall large enough and empty enough to be plastered with paper squares. If there is no such wall, take down some art work. Okay, no, but seriously you can also use something like a tri-fold board or the back of a door.
  2. I got three different colors of sticky notes, one color for Ace and one for Mara - my two narrators - and one for multi-arc events and ideas. You can use as few or as many as you want.
  3. I set up my laptop near my appropriately empty wall and pulled up the plot points I had for Ace and Mara on the screen.
  4. I wrote down just a sentence or two for each plot point, starting at what I figured came first and progressing through both point of views chronologically (my chronology wasn't necessarily accurate - it was just estimation). As soon as you write the first plot point on a note, stick it to the wall. Each successive plot point goes to the right of the one before. Don't forget to use the different colors for the different POVs.
  5. DO NOT STOP IF YOU GET TO A PLOT POINT SECTION YOU HAVE TO FIX. Make a note of it and any ideas that come to you and keep pasting the plot to the wall.
  6. Keep going until you've gotten all your plot points onto sticky notes and they're all lined up on the wall.
I used blue for Ace, pink for Mara, and purple for multi-arc events and for my ideas.. Notes go left to right and top to bottom.
Something about handwriting each successive point helped me think things through easily. Whenever an idea hit me that solved a snag I spotted, I wrote it down but didn't stop to correct it on the wall. Once I'd reached the end, I had a few notes with my ideas on it. So for an hour or so I took advantage of the sticky notes and moved them around, occasionally adding new ones, until I had my plot all smoothed out. 
You can also stick the notes to each other, letting you combine points into a single one or decide on what goes into each chapter.
A great thing about using the different colors is that you can see how much of each narrator you've got. You can see if any area is very heavy on one narrator and light in another, and it just helps you to visualize your entire plot. 
I have fallen in love with this plotting method and shall use it forevermore.

As far as chronology snags - and believe me, I have quite a few since I can't fit six weeks' worth of events in between Halloween and Thanksgiving - I just used a simple pen and notebook. I thought about using my timeline program but I didn't feel like getting bogged down with all the extras and technological frills.
I started at day one of my plot, which was all nicely smoothed out thanks to the sticky notes. In my notebook I wrote "day 1: day of the week" and then my first plot point. Then I looked at my next plot point and decided whether or not it was in the same day as the previous one. It was, so I wrote it directly under the first one, indented away from the "day 1" label so that it looked nice and neat. I kept going until I decided it was time for a new day, at which point I skipped a line and wrote "day 2: next day of the week" and assessed the next plot point. I used the holiday of Halloween to create a date anchor for my plot points, but didn't actually write the dates out.
I figured out that my plot has to begin on a Friday, since the events of Day 2 are better if they take place on a weekend - but on Day 1 they HAVE to be at school.
It looks something like this:

DAY 1 FRI: Mara argues with Victoire in the cafeteria.
                    Mara defends Ace in the hallway.
                    Ace ignores good advice from someone with a bland Destiny in mock combat session
                    Ace notices Victoire for the first time
                    Mara meets Gabriel in the park
                    Ace picks up, sets up, and plays a keyboard in secret
                    Mara gets home late and argues with her parents

DAY 2 SAT: Mara makes peace with her mother
                    Mara and Ace confirm guest list for birthday party

DAY 4 MON: Ace is promoted to Field Apprentice

Note: write the day number even if there are no events to put under it. Keeping the gaps lets you easily count how many days have passed, and also gives you room to draw a few arrows if you need to shift something backwards or forwards a day or two.
I kept going until I came across my first problem: I had six weeks of events after Halloween, and the last even was supposed to happen on Thanksgiving. I can move the plot point that originally happened on Halloween, but my Thanksgiving plot point has to stay on Thanksgiving. So for now, I've stopped, and now I'm going to get digital. I'll go into my timeline program (check out my post on making timelines here) and enter in all my plot points, working backwards from my fixed Thanksgiving point and spacing the points according to the gaps I've figured out in my notebook. The nice thing about working with Aeon, my timeline program, is that I can shift a group of events to a different time frame while preserving their relation in time to each other. So I'll use Aeon to sort out the kinks with my Halloween/Thanksgiving problem, then I'll go back to the notebook and continue until I hit another snag.
Why bother with the different formats? Writing everything out in a simple list format helps me visualize the passing time. It is easy to understand and simple to do, which makes it easy to spot problems you've got. It is really easy to figure out how much time has passed since all you have to do is count - no adding and subtracting dates. But once you have to shift the time frame of an entire group of plot points, it is easier to work in digital so that you can just click and drag things around instead of writing and rewriting dozens of dates.

By the end of all this I will have not only all my plot discrepancies sorted out, but also my chronology. I'll have a timeline set up and I'll be ready to sort everything into an outline - but I'm not thinking about that yet because there is already enough work to do. Besides that, though, these two things have really enabled me to think through my plotting/chronology problems and figure things out without getting overwhelmed.

What do you do to help you get over problems you find in your plot? Have you ever done something similar to what I did? Are you having problems now? Tell me about them!
Also, don't forget that this Friday is when I'll be posting Tempe's interview! If you haven't yet, please hop over to this post and ask a question or two! I need all the questions I can get!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The King's Scrolls and Challenger Deep

Time for book reviews again! This week I read two books: The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight and Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.
Here are my reviews. Covers (and text links) link to the Goodreads pages.

Ahhh, where to start. Let's see. Well, it definitely didn't lose my attention. It was suspenseful and made me feel the same grief as Kyrin and Kaden (yes, I teared up about four times), which is rare for me. As ever, I still love Jace, although I dearly wish he got more "screen time."
There were a few things that sort of bugged me, though.
One, I think the cast is getting too big. Even in Resistance, the cast ballooned from the first page to the last. And in The King's Scrolls, the cast only got larger. I think it may have doubled, actually, with all of Kyrin's brothers. And while all the characters aren't dizzying, and they are fairly easy to keep track of due to their unique names, the rate at which they kept coming in made me feel like there wasn't much character depth going on. Timothy and Aaron were prime examples of that. Some of the new character felt very one-dimensional, like the author chose a single adjective to describe them and then just went with that. Even Jace, who was excellently developed in the last book, felt a little like a cardboard cutout at the times when it was Kyrin's point of view (which it almost always is) due to just how little he actually says. I mean seriously dude, I get the whole bad conversationalist thing, but half the time he didn't even seem to be around! Which was also partly the fault of the enormous cast. Let me count real quick . . . twenty-six characters who were around for long enough to warrant a mention. Some books manage to carry a large cast well, but I don't think this was one of them. There just wasn't time enough. They kept coming in in new batches without time to get to know any of them, and then there were so many that you just had to focus on who was who. I hope that the next book doesn't add any more, because there are more than enough now. There were characters who had a decent amount of development: Kyrin, Lydia, Marcus, and Leetra. Those four went through changes and it made them feel more real than the others. Kaden was still well-done, though. I regret having to say that for the majority of the books I had to remember Resistance to remember that Jace had any depth at all, which is a tragedy.
Also, there were points when I felt like the Christian faith was sort of . . . I don't know how to say it. Photoshopped. Touched up, to make it seem easier than it is. All the characters didn't once doubt God. Some of the first things that came out of their mouths when they faced a tragedy was about how it was His will. And while I agree 100% with that, that is not how humans often behave. It felt unreal and verged on my chief complaint about Christian fiction - perfectly faithful characters who don't mess up.
My only other complaint is the fact that Jace was so marginalized (seriously, I want more from his point of view! Not that I've got anything against Kyrin's).
After all that complaining you may find it hard to believe that I actually did really enjoy this book. It wasn't hard to pick back up if I had to put it down, and when I did put it down I was reluctant. I'm highly anticipating the next book in the series, as well as the e-book being released this month. The writing style was great, and while I wasn't thrilled with all of the characters the ones that counted did have enough depth to keep me from writing off the entire cast as poorly developed. Erm, that sounds very negative. Let me rephrase. I actually did love several of the most important characters, like Kaden and Marcus and Jace (again, why). The way it wrapped up was good, too, with a suspenseful climax. It wasn't quite the BANG I was hoping for, but it was still good. I didn't love this book as much as I liked the previous book, but it was still good, and I still think you should read it if you want a good Christian fantasy. Four stars.

Challenger Deep takes you along for a plunge into mental illness along with the main character, Caden. The writing was so beautiful and expressive that I felt almost like I was the one getting more and more irrational until everyone around me started noticing and I was admitted to a mental hospital. That is what I'll praise first: the beauty of the writing itself. I read very few books where I take note of how the book is written, how the words interact, how the pace ebbs and flows along with the narrator's thoughts. But in Challenger Deep, the writing is just so gorgeous and expressive that you can't not take notice. The style of the narrative capturing Caden's thoughts so perfectly . . . I can't quite describe it, so you're going to have to read it for yourself.
Also, don't stop reading Challenger Deep at the last chapter - read the author's note. The book becomes so personal after that. So touching. Challenger Deep is a definite five stars, but not because it leaves the reader feeling all hyped and excited and squealing. When I closed it, I sat for some five minutes just letting my brain circle over and over how wonderfully the writing had captured Caden, how deeply it had made me empathize with him, and how personal the entire story must be for Neal Shusterman. It is the kind of five-star book that makes you want to set aside an hour or two for silent pondering on all that the story has made you feel and think. It makes you feel like you can't move on to another book just yet, for fear that you won't let this one sink in deep enough. If I didn't have a stack of other books to read, I'd just open Challenger Deep at the beginning and read it over again, front to back. It was laden with subtext and I feel like I've missed a great deal which can only be known by reading it through again, knowing the ending. This novel was art. It was feeling. It was understanding. 
Please read it.

So, if you've read either of these, what did you think of them? Would you rate them the same number of stars I did? Why or why not? And if you haven't read any of these, are they on your to-read list?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Beautiful People #10: Parental Edition

It is Beautiful People time again! This linkup is hosted by Cait @ Paperfury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. Go check them out.
This month I'm answering questions for both Ace and Mara. It doesn't seem right to leave one of the twins out . . . aaaaaand all the main characters in Taken are orphans. Whoops. Not cliche at all, there.
I'll mix it up a little and have Mara and Ace answer directly. Any comments I have will be in italics.

1. Do they know their biological parents? Why/why not?
     Mara: Um, yeah, we know our parents.
Ace: We were sort of born to them and all that.

2. Have they inherited any physical resemblances from their parents?
Ace: Mara looks like dad.
     Mara: No I don't! My hair is silver and my eyes are some weird honey brown, like Mom's.
Ace: You have his eye shape and his mouth. Very frowny all the time.
     Mara: Well you have his big nose.
Ace: It isn't big, it's chiseled. Mom also says I have his jawline and eyes, but apparently my hairline is like hers. . . whatever that means.
     Mara: You've got his black hair, too.
Ace: Wrong again. It is dark brown.
     Mara: Whatever. Looks black.
Children, please.

3. What's their parental figure(s) dress style? Add pictures if you like!
     Mara: Mom likes wearing those really flow-y blouses and jeans, but if she doesn't feel like making an effort to look nice she'll wear sweatshirts and yoga pants. Dad is always wearing collared shirts with a tie and jacket and pressed pants.
Ace: He never seems to wear anything but what he wears to work, even on weekends.
     Mara: At least Mom knows how to relax.

4. Do they share any personality traits with their parental figures? And which do they take after most?
Ace: I know I'm like Mom because I like to have a lot of people around. Mara is more like Dad with that - she prefers to be alone.
     Mara: It isn't my choice, you jerk!
Ace: *shrugs*
     Mara: Well Ace is like Dad in that he can be really insensitive.
Ace: And you're like Mom because you get distracted a lot and are procrastination queen.
     Mara: Yeah, and I still get better grades than you! So ha! Dad's genes there!
Ace: There's another trait of Mom's: you're so defensive. And hey, my grades aren't bad either.
Alright, alright, quiet. Since they're busy bickering, Mara is more like her mother, while Ace . . . I'm not really sure where he came from. He isn't much like his bubbly somewhat absent-minded mother, but he certainly doesn't share many similarities with his stone-silent father. I'd guess he's more like his mother as well, if only on account of how friendly he is to people he takes an interest in.

5. Do they get on with their parental figure(s) or do they clash?
Ace: Well I get along just fine with both Mom and Dad. We all do our thing and I chat with Mom over breakfast and don't give Dad any reason to lecture me. But Mara . . .
     Mara: Be quiet Ace!
Ace;  . . . Mara is always arguing with Mom and Dad.
     Mara: Only because they think I'm going to end up killing someone if I set foot in the backyard!
Ace: I think you're just looking for a reason to argue with them.
     Mara: Just shut up, Julian.
Obviously, they clash with each other quite a lot too.

6. If they had to describe their parental figures in one word, what would it be? 
     Mara: Dad - cold. Mom - flighty.
Ace: That's not very positive. I'd say Dad is "quiet" and Mom is "bubbly."
     Mara: *snorts* understatements, both.

7. How has their parental figure(s) helped them most in their life?
Ace: Dad points out if you're being stupid, which isn't really nice, but at least it stops me from making big mistakes. Mom is great to go to for advice . . . *ehem* . . . especially for the topic of girls.
     Mara: *sigh* Mom did help me when I cried because of bullies. She just let me cry into her shoulder and didn't try to give me any false reassurance. She was just there for me. But Dad . . . I don't think he really has helped me much. In fact, since he's the one who recorded my Destiny when I was born, he is sort of the biggest hindrance on my life.
Ace: He didn't have much choice. He couldn't change your Destiny.
     Mara: He could have changed the records. You'd think he'd do something like that for his own daughter, but no.

8. What was their biggest fight with their parental figure(s)?
Ace: Dad and I haven't really argued at all. Mom and I --
*blocks Mara's ears*
-- once got into an argument over Mara.
*unblocks Mara's ears*
     Mara: I've argued with both of them lots of times. The most recent one sort of stands out though. I got home late and walked into the house to find both Mom and Dad - and Ace *glare* - waiting for me in the kitchen. I'd only been hanging out with Gabriel but they started getting on my case for being out so late because "you never know what could happen." They thought I had killed someone! Like, they don't trust me with anything!
They actually didn't, but that's Mara for you - she reads way too much into things.

9. Tracing back the family tree, what nationalities are in their ancestry?
I'll take this, since I doubt either of them ever bothered to wonder. A few generations ago, the Harrods (Flint's family, or the father) immigrated from England, and the primary ethnic group in his bloodline is Celt, which is rare compared to all the Germans and French in England. Emma's family (mother) is Swedish. 

10. What's their favorite memory with their parental figure(s)?
     Mara: A few years ago I remember Ace and Dad went camping and me and Mom stayed at home and watched romance movies until three in the morning. We ate so much ice cream and popcorn that I swear I'm still digesting it! Not that things are still like that.
Ace: When we went deep-sea fishing a couple years ago. Mom had a really big fish on the end of her line and nearly got yanked over the railing. Dad had to grab her around her waist and pulled her back, then helped her haul the fish in. Then Mara's sandwich got stolen by a seagull. That was funny.
     Mara: No it wasn't. *glares*

That's the end of the questions! Mara didn't seem to be in a very good mood. I guess I chose the Mara  further into her character arc than from the end of Shadows and Light instead of the beginning. Ace wasn't quite as arrogant as his beginning self either. It seems you got them both at the end of their character arcs.

Have you done Beautiful People this month? Leave me a link in the comments! Also, don't forget that a week ago I made Tempe available for questions! If you want to know something, now is the time to ask! Head over here and leave a comment to ask whatever you want.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

9 1/2 Ways to Get to Know Your Characters

Characters are my favorite part of writing. I love figuring out how their minds work, what is most important to them, and what they may be keeping secret. It's almost like getting to know a new friend.
With real people, of course, we use things like dinner parties and trips to the movie theater to get to know each other. As time goes on and we begin trusting each other, we open up and learn about our new friends. With characters, we often don't really have that kind of time, and we don't have the luxury of going to see a movie with them to figure out their likes and dislikes. We have to be creative, and quickly.
So, here is a list of nine and a half ways I know of that can help you on your quest to gain insight into your characters.

1: Character Sheets
I'm sure you've seen plenty of these on the internet. Most of them ask questions about favorite foods and what style they wear their hair in, and I don't tend to find those very useful when you're trying to figure out how your character acts. Honestly, I don't really bother with the internet questionnaires - I prefer to make my own list of questions. That doesn't mean some of them are not useful. From some of them, I've stolen questions to add to my own sheets.
I find that some of the important things to figure out include:
  • birthday
  • goals (both the large plot goals, and smaller ones)/plans for the future
  • adjectives which would describe them (both to those who don't know them too well, and those who know them intimately)
  • backstory - this is probably the most important
  • family relationships - what members of the family are they closest to? How do those relationships impact them in the story?
  • character arc - how does the character change over the course of the story?
  • basic appearance / adjectives to describe their bearing - how their outward appearance makes others perceive them is important. Do they walk around glaring? Limping but grinning? 
You'll figure out what is important for you to know with some experimentation. Your sheets will probably change from project to project as well, or even from character to character. My sheets for Taken are vastly different from the ones I use now for Shadows and Light, and my main characters get pages of their sheets dedicated to answering questions about their character arcs when my minor characters are lucky to get a mention of any sort of arc. You've got to figure out what works best for you, but if you want some inspiration, below is a link to one of my recent character sheets.

2: Character Chats
This is something you need a friend for, but if you're part of any kind of writers' group you should be able to find at least one person willing to do it. The basic idea is that you talk as a character, like you're acting. Someone else will do the same for one of their characters. Messaging systems are usually used, such as Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, or even just texting. Character chats are useful for seeing new dimensions of your characters, since often the chat forces them to interact with a type of character they don't meet in your own work. Chats also make you think about how your character talks, giving you practice for writing their dialogue.
For more details, check out the post I wrote a while back, "Why Character Chats Are Awesome."

3: Character Interviews
These are usually done through blogs, but there are other ways to do it if you want to. Basically, you notify people (either through your blog, or maybe a Facebook post, or just through texting friends) that you want to interview one of your characters and need questions to ask. You may want to include a short blurb on who the character is or provide some backstory. Then set a date to share the interview, say, a week from when you made the interview public. If you have good friends or loyal blog followers, they'll ask questions you might not think of.
You take the questions and then write up a document. You ask the questions, and your character answers them. It should hopefully come across like a transcript from an interview you see on television. The idea is to practice writing dialogue as your character - capturing their emotion, vocabulary, speech patterns, and everything else about how they sound. I like to add in their mannerisms as well, between asterisks to show that it isn't spoken words. When it is done, you share the interview either on your blog or with anyone else who you involved at first.
For examples of finished character interviews, check out these interviews of Nitri, Ace, and Keir. I'm also currently taking questions to put in an interview of Tempe over here if you want to see what the initial shout-out may look like.

4: Artwork
Maybe you don't feel like this one is for you. But honestly, you don't have to be an incredible artist to get some use out of this. Drawing your character is about capturing more than what they look like. Think about their posture - hands on hips, or a soldier's stance? What kind of clothing would they be wearing? What colors? Why do they wear what they do? Is there a habit they are often caught in which can be drawn?
My character Nitri is cocky and habitually tosses his fighting knives into the air and then catches them, without looking. I tried capturing the confidence and habit in my drawing of him - notice I never even drew his face. As I drew, I decided Nitri would have a coat - this developed into his refusal to take the coat off, because he's proud of it, because it was hard to steal. See? I got bits of backstory from it. As I drew the tears in his clothing I wondered why he wouldn't patch them. I came to the conclusion that he thinks patches look low-class (even more so than tears) and his vanity makes him endure a little draftiness rather than have multi-colored clothing.
You don't have to get very detailed with this. Stick figures could even help! Fool around with it and imagine what your character looks like, standing in the flesh, and see if you can capture them on paper. Any sort of visual can be a foundation for character traits.

5: Journaling / Social Media Accounts
I've only tried journaling once and didn't get much from it, but I know other writers find it incredibly helpful. There are a couple of ways to do it, as far as I've heard.
One is that you ask your characters questions, on paper, and write what you think they'd say in response. Sort of like a character interview without outside participation. This is what I tried. Maybe it could work for you, even if I was just stumped.
Two is that you write as the character, without anything of your own added in. Sort of like keeping a diary for your character. You could fiddle with this and run a private Facebook page as your character, or a Twitter account, or a blog. I tried the Facebook page version for Ace and Mara and that worked for a little while. It was cool posting status updates for them because I could contrast them really well. I even had to think about how they would have different writing styles. Mara used hashtags and all the little additions to status updates (e.g. feeling sad, watching Star Wars) and didn't particularly care about capitalization, while Ace just used words. I also had to think about the kinds of things they'd share, what they'd make their pages look like, etc.

6: Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI)
Some people aren't fans of MBTI, but I am, and it has helped me with figuring out how a character should be acting before, so maybe you will find it useful too.
Myers-Briggs is a way to categorize different aspects of people's behavior. How they get energy, what they focus on, how they make decisions, and the way they organize their life are all represented using letters which form a four-digit code. With only four places in the code and two letter options for each place, there are a total of sixteen types. If you know how the system works and take a free online Myers-Briggs test as a character, you can use their personality type to fill in blanks about how they may behave. I wrote a more detailed post on the subject here.

7: Online Quizzes
Of course, the internet is loaded with quizzes about various topics. What kind of anger you have, what word describes you best, etc. While I don't think you can really rely on these for accurate information all the time, sometimes they do come out with something insightful. Taking these kinds of quizzes as your character may yield some information, or, if all else fails, may provide some inspiration for another character.
Sometimes the questions in the quizzes themselves will give you information. For instance, I took one quiz the other day that asked what style of wedding dress I liked most. Imagine taking it as your character - does she choose a very traditional dress? Modest? Short and colored? These quizzes are probably more useful for the questions they ask rather than the actual result!

8: Backstory Scenes
Writing extra backstory scenes can be dangerous ground. Whether or not you choose to write these, you should always know at least the major life events in your character's past. Sometimes, though, you may need a few extra details, and oftentimes those details don't come until your start writing the incident. I did this for my character Nitri, mostly because I wanted to see how he behaved back before he'd met Tyv. How did he handle fights? What did he spend his time on? I had fun writing a couple scenes for him and it gave me some interesting insights into his character. However, be warned that you don't get distracted with this. If you get carried away you can end up spending hours writing something that has nothing to do with your project.

9: Pinterest
Ah, we writers love Pinterest, don't we? All those shiny pictures and quotes and writing prompts. It is inspiration central, not to mention the treasure troves of advice on writing. It seems to me, though, that a lot of Pinning writers aren't taking advantage of Pinterest completely. Inspiration and advice is all well and good, but you can do a lot more! For every major and secondary character, I make a board. Then I fill it with pins of:
  • drawings and pictures of people which capture what your character looks like
  • quotes/phrases describing your character
  • quotes/phrases which your character would say
  • clothing your character might wear
  • weapons or accessories your character may carry
I love finding the quotes and phrases most. Mix it all in with a few pictures and all you have to do to get a feel for a character is take a quick scroll through their board. The "related pins" section under each pin is a great place to find even more material to add to your character's profile.
Your board doesn't have to be public, either. In fact, all of mine were secret until several months ago, when I knew I'd want to share my boards as part of Writer and Proud. It may even be better to keep the boards secret until you're close to publishing your book! It's your call, but either way, having a board to glance at for a reminder of who your character is is very useful and encouraging. I have loads of character boards on my Pinterest profile (link in the sidebar), but if you just want a quick look click here for Gabriel's board or click here for Ace's board.

Bonus: Name Meanings
I usually pay attention to this only when I first name a character. However, if you feel like your character is two-dimensional, it may be worth a shot to google his name and see what it means. You never know what might come up - maybe the meaning will give you another dimension to add to his personality.

That about wraps it up. Hopefully if you were looking for ways to develop your characters more, this list has given you some ideas.

What are some ways you typically develop your characters? Have you used any of the methods I mentioned? How useful do you find each one?