Personality Test

Personalities. Unless you happen to be a soulless husk of a human being, everyone has one. As you can probably expect, however, I will be focusing on the personalities of fictional characters instead of the personalities of real life people (even if these two will probably end up coinciding). How an author develops a character’s personality, and how it is kept consistent throughout a fictional work, can be a difficult process overall.

I think there are varying methods for coming up with a character’s personality. Some people go into great detail with it, in fact. They make up questionnaires and then fill out the answers they think their character would give, or write out a full description so they have it on hand, or any number of organized tactics. I have tried this a couple of times myself. There is a set of questions/prompts in a writing advice book I have (Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer) that I remember answering in a separate notebook for a couple of stories, but I don’t think they were ever finished. It is a good method to go by, but I don’t use it often when creating personalities.

Then there may be authors who do it on the fly and see how their characters’ personalities grow while the story continues. Many people will fall somewhere in between this and detailed character questionnaires. It is speculated that the personalities can be influenced to some degree by the author in question, people that they know, and even other creators’ characters. The environment of the story seems to have the possibility to shape them as well.

Usually, I have a fairly clear image of a character in my head, and if they aren’t fully fleshed out then I can have the basics down. What I mean by that, to go more in depth, is that a character is probably going to need more polishing beyond the initial idea, as it is with all things when coming up with a story: the plot, the world, everything. Likewise, a personality is something you could possibly not get the hang of until half way through your first draft, and then in latter edits you can apply your new knowledge of your character.

Still, the baseline is there for me, and I assume there are a lot of writers who function the same. This will depend, of course, on someone’s personal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing, but from what I’ve seen you can usually access the ‘feel’ of a character quickly. If you spend enough time with them in your head, even if you aren’t writing anything down for a while, you have a good chance of getting to know their personality, behaviour, motivation, etc. Putting the characters into their environments, situations, and working out how they react solidifies all that.

Character development would appear to be a well discussed topic, of course it is very important in literature. Even in a plot driven story needs to flesh out its characters. This comes with making them well rounded, accenting their traits, and giving them flaws. Their backstory is also normally involved in development.

This stuff on its own can already be a daunting task, but after the characters are created you also need to work at keeping their personality consistent throughout your story – or, longer, your series. I’ve probably made many of my own slip ups in this area. Consistency, especially when you aren’t working on a story for long periods of time, can easily be broken in character, plot, setting, or other elements of writing. Sometimes the way a character acts in the beginning of a work doesn’t fit with the way they act later in a work, and the changes have no reasonable logic behind them in terms of character arc. It can be an awful feeling when you lose your grip on a character’s personality.

However, as it was with general character development, the first draft is there to smooth those difficulties out a bit. Anything that doesn’t make sense for a certain character can be changed; although, admittedly, this could lead to a lot of revising, to the point of major plot changes. Such is life.

A writer generally needs to know a character’s personality inside and out to help the story be successful. Both development and consistency are crucial to that. It can be a fun aspect of storytelling, though, to play around with the creation of characters and figure out how they think, how they act, and what makes them tick. I do make it sound slightly as if characters are some pre-existing entities that an author meets, and that it isn’t all coming from their heads, but it can genuinely feel like that sometimes. And when you spend so much time with the characters inside your own head, it is easy to get attached, which goes for the writers as well as the readers.

Shifting Into Literary Drive

There are a lot of elements that work in tandem to produce a good story. Central conflict, setting, characters, plot; I could go on. Writing style, the crafting of sentences and the like will give it its flavour. One of the well known distinctions of a novel, however, is whether it is character driven or plot driven, which is what I will be exploring in this post.

Trying to explore, anyway. It’s not like this is my very own literary course, but we’ll see how it goes.

The long and short of it is that a character driven story focuses on the development of the character(s) themself (or themselves), and how they come to make the choices they do. A plot driven story, on the other hand, focuses much more on action, so the choices themselves are generally more important in making the story happen than the characters are.

At the extreme, a plot driven story is the fast paced action novel, and a character driven story is the complicated character study. (However, there is bound to be an overlap of the two in literature.)

As writers, people will probably have some degree of preference for one over the other. From my and my mother’s observation, it would seem that I, for example, lean more towards the character driven style. I do enjoy exploring a character’s psyche, and my writing tends to not be a third person omniscient view, instead showing the story through the thoughts and feelings of one or a few characters. It may also explain why character dynamics are one of my favourite things to write.

Objectively, it doesn’t seem as though one is better than the other. While I enjoy the character driven style, the plot driven style is great at giving engaging situations in a story and keeping a reader on their toes. It doesn’t necessarily sacrifice good character development, but the plot itself is at the forefront of the story. When it is character driven, it is the inverse.

Regardless of whether your story is driven by plot or character, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put effort into whichever isn’t the most important in your story. A novel falls if the plot isn’t well developed. A novel falls if the characters aren’t well developed, too. While favouring either in itself isn’t bad, it is still important to craft each, along with the other elements of storytelling. No one probably needs to hear that from me, however: reading anything that obviously didn’t put attention into its plot or its characters stands out like a sore thumb.

Thumb sayings aside, it’s a cool axis to look at overall. It’s also interesting to exam different authors and see on which side they fall more. The overlap truly begins when it is acknowledged that both plot and characters are important for a good story, leading to an attempt to balance it out a bit more. Now that I have done a bit of research on each, it will be interesting to examine my own writing in that light, as well as the writing of others.

It’s a Love-Hate Relationship

They’re the stars of the show. The cogs in the machine. The beloved hero, the hated villain (the hated hero, the beloved villain). Everybody give it up for the many, the several, the protagonists!

A little too over the top? Perfect.

Whether a story is plot driven or character driven, the characters tend to be pretty important. They usually act as the eyes through which the readers see the world, and they continue to push the story forward until the very end. There’s a lot to get into about characters (arcs, personality development, etc.), but for the moment I’m going to be focusing on one thing: character dynamics.

The interaction between characters is actually one of my favourite parts of writing, if I were to try and categorize it into a list like that. Even if it’s a couple of side characters having a discussion off to the side of the chaos, it tends to be quite an interesting part of storytelling. The whole ordeal is a lot like mixing a group of chemicals together to achieve a certain result. Maybe you know what that result will be, and maybe you don’t.

There are a lot of different “archetypes” for character dynamics that can be seen across many forms of media. The hero and the mentor, found family, protagonist and rival, and so on. The whole nothing-is-actually-original definitely applies here as well, and when looking close enough it’s easy to pick up on the patterns. Those patterns might even apply to one author. People are naturally going to have character dynamics they prefer, and ones that they reuse throughout their works – just look at all the character relationship drawings on the Internet.

I’m not criticizing any of this, either. I have my own favourite character dynamics, ones that probably reappear in my writing more than I notice. I like to write and read about characters that clash in some way. This isn’t a rare thing, of course. It creates drama and that draws people in. Conflict, and not necessarily the aggressive kind, is interesting.

I can use an example of my own writing to show the type of character dynamic I enjoy. A few posts back (here if you haven’t seen it), I introduced Aylwin and Silas. Those couple of excerpts offer only a small taste of their relationship, but you probably get the idea. Silas is fairly charming, cheeky, and, of course, a thief. Aylwin, on the other hand, has a solid moral core and doesn’t deal with much nonsense on the surface. Even within that small section they engage in a few arguments, and as the story goes on the bickering doesn’t end, although it does change once their friendship begins to develop. It comes out as a lot of teasing on Silas’ end, a lot of exasperation on Aylwin’s end, and overall a bunch of fun for me.

So, it’s mostly humorous, unlikely friendships, that are a little on the rocky side. Outside examples of this might be Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Eugenides and Costis (or Eugenides and just about anyone, really) from The Queen’s Thief series, a few duos from TV shows and movies I’ve seen over the years, and quite a few more that I can’t put my finger on all at once. It may be reflected in one of my older stories, Thief, as well, but then again I don’t think I ever posted more than one chapter on here.

Beyond that there are of course other dynamics I enjoy, but these types seem to be up there in terms of favourites. The personalities of characters give way to all sorts of outcomes, and sometimes they’re totally unexpected. I can’t say for sure, I suppose, how it works for the professional authors, but I don’t think I’m always a hundred percent sure what the relationship of a group of characters is going to be until I start writing it out.

It’s fun because of the way personalities can bounce off of each other, and navigating how humans form bonds and their complicated relationships with one another. Again, bickering is also great to write. It seems to be a very compelling part of storytelling in that way.

[Enter Title Here (The Naming of Things)]

Well, look at that. I’m still alive. School has finally rolled around, and I’m tired and sick, but I’m alive. Nice to see you again, blog on my laptop screen. Let’s see if I can write out an entire post for the fun of it, shall we?

It’s another one of those annoying things that comes with writing just about anything. Whether you do fiction or non-fiction, verse or prose, a short story or a novel, everyone comes across the universal problem that is names. That is, names, and titles.

I’ve spent a fair amount of “writing time” staring at a page and trying to think up with the perfect name for a new character or an imaginary place (the latter of which includes looking up a word for that place that I may think is original only to find rather unflattering definitions). When it comes to finding something that sounds right, you have hours to spare.

And remember, that’s only names. Titles are an entire different monster altogether. You’re trying to find something that sums up the piece that you’ve created, but nothing seems like it works, and in the end it just ends up being Untitled because hey, why not.

My experiences with names aren’t the best, but from what I’ve seen, I’m not the only one that these are occurrences for. Starting out, here comes the stars of the show themselves:

The Names of Characters

The weird thing is, I go to write a quick response to a prompt, and the names of characters come to me easily. That guy is Carl. She is Susan. Perfect. (As I can recall, none of my main characters have ever been called Carl and Susan, but that’s beside the point.)

When I have more time and when I know these names are going to be in it for the long run, it’s a case of clamming up, so to speak. I’ll be writing these names over, and over, and over again every time I sit down to write. The names need to be good, and they need to be something I’m not going to get sick of half way through.

Sometimes character names do come naturally. Not as quick as a prompt Carl and Susan, but the Carl and Susan do come around. And then it’s a matter of last names, and bam, I’m done. However, this is very rare. It only ever happens with a couple of characters.

Other times, I’ll interrogate family or friends for names. Out of the blue I’ll just ask one or several of them to “give me a (insert gender) name.” They will tell me a name, or a selection of many, and I’ll roll with it. This is an only slightly less rare option for me, because most of the time I rely on…drum roll please…

Baby name websites.

Yes. Baby name websites. Wohoo.

Like I told you earlier, though, I’m not the only one! Baby name websites are a go to place for naming people, real or not. If I’m really low on ideas, I’ll scroll through one of those websites until I find a name I like and that I think fits the character. This is a foolproof plan, honestly. I’ve never had an instance where I couldn’t find something I liked on a baby name website.

Then there’s characters like Nod Axiom from Thief. She’s in a category all of her own for my characters. I…Yeah, I don’t know where that name came from. It might have been inspired by Wynken, Blynken, and Nod? Probably? I really have no idea anymore.

The Names of Places

This comes with building worlds far unlike our own. Maybe very like our own, or even basically our everyday world with one place that is a figment of the creator’s imagination. Whatever the case, this is also difficult.

Usually when I’m trying to name areas, that means the story takes place in a fantasy or sci-fi world. And because of these outrageous settings, the names can be equally outrageous, right?

As I’ve already mentioned, my tactic for this one is to sit around until an unsuspecting name floats by and I can kidnap it. Then I’ll search it up to see if it is a real thing and what it means. A lot of the time, I will keep adding things to the name or I’ll shift it around until I get the message:

Your search-__________-did not match any documents.

Suggestions:

-Make sure that all words are spelled correctly.

-Try different keywords.

-Try more general keywords.

Don’t worry, Google. I meant what I said and I said what I meant. If Dr. Seuss could make up words, so can I.

The Monster

I, uh, mean titles. Yeah, titles.

No, seriously though. These things are the worst.

There’s no tactic. Not that I have, at least. Baby name websites don’t give you titles. I would prefer not to have a made up word as my title, personally. There’s always the option of asking others, but a title is the sort of thing that I never seem to be satisfied with until I find The One.

Sometimes The One never actually pops up. Once again, Thief is an example of that, as is Forevermore. A holding title will roll around, and it will stick to the story until it becomes the real thing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, in the end-at least there’s a title.

The moral of the story?

Naming things in pieces of writing is hard. Even if it’s a particular piece that doesn’t require you make up names for people or places on your own, each usually has a monster-uh, title-of its own. The reason for that, I suppose, is that they’re important.

Think Harry Potter, Star Wars, Mario Bros. All of these things have fairly simple titles, but they’re memorable. If you say one of them, a lot of the time people will know what you mean. Those names will always be connected to those stories.

The names are unfortunately part of the creative process. The names are, at the end of the day, part of the story in a huge way.

 

Spoiler Alert! They All Die in Chapter 27

I’m a pro at killing off characters.

No, wait. That’s a lie. I’m not a pro at killing off characters; I hate it. Whether it’s the protagonist or the villain or the supporting character, generally I don’t enjoy killing anyone in my books. That’s why for the most part everybody survives by the end of the story.

Congratulations, me. You’re a wimp and love your characters too much.

Sometimes it may be necessary, but as of yet I haven’t really found a good enough reason to kill my characters anyway. Is my opinion because I’m an amateur writer? Well, perhaps. However, here I’m still basically going to explain why characters should or should not be killed.

One of the reasons people die in stories is to add emotional impact. I believe it’s called pulling at the heartstrings. A lot of series, books, movies, or TV shows have deaths that leave the readers/viewers (to put it lightly) upset.

Some people might not go as far as to sob for a day straight over a fictional character, but the emotional impact is still there. Nobody feels good after the death of a character. Unless, of course, a character you hate dies. Let’s be honest, though, the ones we hate are never the ones to die.

There are many ways to pull at heartstrings, so I don’t go as far as death when I write.

Another reason a character may be killed is to convey risk. The death of someone, it doesn’t matter who, can show just how much danger there is in whatever situation.

Yes, I get that. Even so I don’t kill characters for that cause either. I’ll think, The world is splitting and slowly crumbling, I’m sure it’s very apparent that there’s risks.

(I literally did find a couple of pages of a book I started writing where planet Earth was splitting apart. Apparently seven year old me loved drama.)

Then there’s the times when a character dying is necessary to the plot, which is about the only occurrence when I even consider killing off someone.

Generally speaking, I have a very in-depth plan of every character’s life and how it ties into the story, making it move forward. Many characters are still needed to make the book work. I’m not going to kill them, or else they can’t play their part and that “part” just won’t work.

If the time comes for their part to be dying, then I’ll have to suck it up and kill them off. I definitely won’t enjoy it. Actually, it would probably impact me more emotionally than anyone who ends up reading it.

No one’s death helps the plots of my stories at the moment. So, “You get to live, you get to live, you guys get to live, you all can go live your magical fantasy lives.”

Then there’s the instances that people pull a Marvel and bring the character back, but that’s another story altogether.

That’s…Yeah, that’s all I have to say. Goodbye, I guess. Or goodnight. It really depends on how I’m feeling at the moment.

Characters Are More Annoying Than Real People

Hello, everyone. Let’s play a game called I’m Bored So the World is Getting Another Post Whether it Likes it or Not. In this one I’ll be talking about how-as you probably have already guessed-imaginary characters are more annoying than real people (well, sometimes).

Any story needs a lot of building blocks to make it good: solid setting, solid plot, solid theme, and so on. Among these things, something that is very, very important is having a good, solid character. Unless your character’s, like, a ghost or something.

I feel like this is one of the things I struggle most with for the majority of the time. Picture this. You have an amazing story idea, one of your best yet, and you’re getting really excited about it. You’ll craft the entire world, what has to happen, plot twists, everything. Except for one tiny piece that will make the entire thing fall on its face.

The characters. The fictional characters can be non-fictional pains in the neck.

If the main character is under-developed, then it all crashes down. I’m serious. Nothing will work because the character is simply not well created, uninteresting, blah. Every book on writing I’ve ever read insists on you “making the readers care about your characters.” And when the character is barely a character at all, NO ONE IS GOING TO CARE ABOUT THEM.

At least, they won’t if you don’t give the character their personality traits. Mold them, sort of. This is so difficult sometimes that I’ll take a break from even trying for days on end.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard. Sometimes the character isn’t really turning out well, or they’re too much like a character from a previous book I worked on, which also happens often. I’ll still be in the mindset of the last book’s main character and it takes a while to get out of it. When I find that I’m being repetitive with my characters, it straight out bugs me.

Do you see how they’re annoying yet? They never work the way you want them to. Characters, like I mentioned, are one of the most frustrating parts of writing for me and-

And then there’s the times that they turn out well. Then they make the story better, and I enjoy writing about them and how each of them react to different situations. Writers can get attached to their characters, yes, and when a lot of the times they’re “annoying” the ones that aren’t so much that you get especially attached to.

Here’s what I do nowadays: I pick a few of my favourite characters from other books or movies or shows that I like. I pick the traits I like about them, then I dwindle it down into a character that works for the story. I give them some other unique qualities, too, and presto! I’ve got a main character.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that it’s not as easy as the previous paragraph makes it sound. All in all, just know that it can go one of two ways. So, the character is, uh, “blah.”

Or you’ve got a memorable character that you and your readers will treasure forever.