Cracking Knuckles When Nervous Part 2 Creating a Character Chart

Photo by Alena Darmel on Pexels.com

Last post I shared a basic list to help you keep facts about your characters straight before you write your story. If you missed that post here the link.

Today, I’m going to add more layers to that list to create a deeper POV understanding of those same characters.

What gestures and mannerism might they have?  Creating gestures ahead of time eliminates the possibility of every character sighing,or running their fingers through their hair when things are stressful. It sets them apart unless they are siblings, and that can be a fun observation as you create your characters.

 All the Mulligan brothers had the same habit of cracking their knuckles when they were nervous.

How much education does he have, and where did he get it?

An Ivy League education puts him a cut above a community college. This can affect how they talk and their expectations of life.

What kind of occupation or income does your character have?

This can aid in setting. A successful surgeon probably will have a house with a pool. While his nurse may live in an apartment.

Photo by Charles Parker on Pexels.com

Does your character have any other skills?

 Play the piano, steeple jumping, CPR are a few examples.

During a date he or she can play piano and woo the other. Or CPR skills can save someone in a crucial scene.

Do they have any hobbies or interests?

 The opera, sports, knitting, crossword puzzles are possibilities. Each of these things creates another layer of their intelligence and passion and are great bits to add to scenes. You can set a scene at a sporting event or a knitting circle.

Pets?

 Four of my books have dogs. Their antics add to scenes and my characters’ responses can move the action along or the emotional level.

Religion?

If you write faith-based books, this is necessary to show why they respond as they do. Or if your characters are from another culture, this gives you a chance to note important things needed to sketch your character’s backstory.

Speech pattern?

 This can be a regional accent or a speech impediment. It can also reflect English as their second language. What kind of vocabulary do they have? Having this in mind when writing dialogue keeps characters from sounding alike.

Personality type?

There are several tests available online you can use. Take the test as your character and you’ll be amazed how much more real they become. Or just write controlling, people-pleasure or introvert to give you a baseline. Are they an angry person? What ticks them off? Do they explode or hold it in?

Does the character have a sense of humor?

In a stressful situation, a comic remark can relieve anxiety. But it doesn’t work if the character has no sense of humor.

Social Status?

 Is your character’s a Lord, a wealthy businessman, a poor laborer or a middle-class blue-collar worker? This question goes along with the character’s political and social views. You might need to research the political or social views of an era if writing a historical.

Friends?

 Who’s their best friend? Who else is in their inner circle? Are they a loner? How do their friends view them? How do they view their friends?

Who is someone your character admires and wants to be like? How does that admiration effect his life?

What is the family dynamic?

Are they close or have a strained relationship? How does their family view your character?

What are they afraid of?

 Does your character have issues from their past that bring out emotional problems?

You could add to your list some pivotal experience in their life.

A father leaving, a sibling’s death that colors their responses to life. Perhaps being accused of cheating or serving time for a crime they did or didn’t commit. Think about what traumas from the past that could shape your character.

Think about what makes them embarrassed.

 Not being dressed appropriately, perhaps. Being in a large group  scares them. Or they are anxious they might say the wrong thing.

What bad habits or weaknesses does your character have?

 Maybe they’re a slob or assume all Irish are bad people. Maybe they are a recovering alcoholic.

What do they want?

 A happily-ever-after? Solve a cold case? Prove their worth?

What do they need?

Money for a mortgage? Find their missing child? A good job?

Defining their ultimate goal helps you craft your story to reach that goal.

Finding a lost child.

What external problems are in the way of meeting that goal?

 Maybe a war is going on around them while they search for a missing child.

What internal problems stand in the way of meeting that goal?

Maybe your character struggles with the fear of not finding this child like she hadn’t found her brother.

Writing the solution to the internal problem before you start your story is a game changer. It might be a  spiritual turmoil like unforgiveness. You decide she needs to truly forgive her partner by the end of the story so they can recapture a loving relationship. Now you just need to get her there.

 Last word

Start with the basic then add any of these other suggestions to help deepen the POV of your character. As a panster it is a challenge to discover half-way through my story that my character hates for example potatoes. Yet he has been eating them all along, and I’ll now need to go back and edit in an earlier comment about his dislike. If I know he is afraid of heights, I’m not surprised when he doesn’t want to leap into the sea from a cliff.

As one who writes their story more organically, asking these questions about my characters before I start helps me understand them better. Will I use all the information I’ve discovered, or will I change it? Probably things will change as the characters tell me who they are as the story evolves. But this exercise saves me gobs of time during the editing and rewrite stage. And that my friend, is worth it to this die-hard pantster.

Helpful Books

I have in my library a collection of Thesauruses by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. They’re designed to help create realistic characters. You don’t need to read them from front to back. Like any Thesaurus, you look at the entries that interest you.

The Emotional Thesaurus, The Positive Tracts Thesaurus, The Negative Tracts Thesaurus, The Emotional Wounds Thesaurus, Occupational Thesaurus, Rural Setting Thesaurus, Urban Setting Thesaurus. Here is the link to the Amazon page with all their current books.

I recommend checking out their blog Writers Helping Writers. They have several worksheets to help develop characters if you don’t want to create your own.

What kinds of tools do you like to use to flesh out your characters before you start a story?

Link for preorder

If you’d like to learn more about my upcoming books and a bit about me here is the subscribe link to my newsletter.

http://eepurl.com/dkZGY5 Not only is Rescuing Her Hearting coming out in July but I have book one of the Village of Women series coming out in October 2021. Be the first to get all the scoops.

Writing Believable Bilingual Characters

Casa-Bernal_-452

Today I’m reposting a blog I created in 2014 before my first novel Secrets & Charades was published. The content is still relevant today. Comment below if you have other suggestions regarding biligual dialogue.

How can you create bilingual characters in dialog? How do you write in a language you don’t know? Let me share how I did it and what not to do. And the fine line to clarity.

When I discovered a few of my secondary characters either did not speak English or it was their second language, I wanted to help my readers understand them and appreciate their ethnic differences. Adding portions of another language to my manuscript could make things interesting. The trick is not to add too much. I’d learned from other writes not to write my dialog exactly as I hear others around me speak. That goes double when writing dialog spoken by bilingual speakers. Trust me—don’t. It is difficult enough to decipher some pieces of conversation where the syntax is different or words are mispronounced. Put that in writing and your reader will be confused enough to stop reading. I recall years ago when my son was required to read Shiloh for his English class. He asked me to read it out loud to him. The author had put thick accents into his southern dialog, and there were times I had to stop and explain what the words meant.

The trick is sprinkling dialog with an accent rather than recreating the accent syllable by syllable. Although the Irish speak English, it sounds different. As my heroine, Evangeline reflects on her late friend an Irish woman. She recalls her brogue. Using the word brogue lets the reader hear the accent. Adding words like lassie and ye into the conversation nails it without overdoing the speech pattern.

“I saw ye in a new place with large mountains and wide plains, and the wind was blowing your hair. Your face be more serene than I had ever seen it afore. Ye seemed younger, and love glowed from your eyes, the love a woman has for a man.”

Sprinkle in the second language

In my current novel a few of my minor characters are Mexican. I wanted to add a line here and there to flavor the scenes in Spanish. I went to a language translator on the internet to quickly add what I needed. Once my rough draft was finish, I showed those lines to my Mexican daughter-in-law and her family. They explained the need to change the wording because it wasn’t Mexican. And based on few scenarios, a more informal exchange was needed. Spanish has several dialects, and what I found on the internet was a more formal European Spanish.

Balance is the key. My Mexican housekeeper character mixes her languages.

“Mija, you’re going to break the chair. Stop sitting like a boy; try to sit like a lady.”

Listen carefully to those bilingual speakers around you, and then modify your dialogue to touch on it

Why did I make sure the translation was accurate?

Because readers who know Spanish would be taken out of the story if the language is wrong. Rather than have a lot of Spanish, I have the Mexican characters say a line in Spanish and another character react in English so the reader can follow the conversation. In this snippet our heroine practices her Spanish on her neighbor’s maid. We can tell by the neighbor’s remark what she said.

“Su pastel seve delicioso, muchas gracias.” Evangeline smiled as she spoke to Maria.

“I see you have picked up Spanish. That is a good way to keep these people on their toes. But there is no need to thank Maria; she is only doing what she is paid to do.” Thomas remarked.

Implied language

When it came to my Chinese characters, I opted for a more implied scenario. Wong Mae greets Evangeline as she enters her dry goods store. Here is a portion of their conversation.

On hearing Selena’s name, she turned to the older man, speaking in what Evangeline assumed was Chinese. The exchange between the two had a melodic quality.

“I am Wong Mae, and this is my father, Wong Chow. We hold Miss Selena in high regard. She is kind and brings us much business from the households of the white ranchers. If she is your friend, you are ours. My father did not know Mr. Marcum married. He says to give you the best price on anything in the store.”

Notice how the translation is all we read. That way I didn’t have to worry about incorrect translation. If these were main characters, I would probably have added Chinese dialog. I wanted to establish their nationality and their position in the community rather than a deeper characterization.

Introduction through dialog

Even without describing your character you can introduce their ethnicity. Selena the housekeeper is introduce through dialog.

“Good Morning, Selena.”

“Buenas Dias, Senor.”

Later more details are given regarding her character, but for a brief moment the reader can visualize a Spanish woman in the kitchen preparing breakfast.

 red dragon

Introducing language through setting

Describing setting can also give the writers a feel for the language. Evangeline visits a dry goods store run by the Wong family. As Evangeline enters town, she observes the distinctive Chinese flavor of the store fronts in one area of town. The dragon bedecked door sets the Wong’s store apart from any other shop. Instantly, the reader expects to enter the store and be greeted in Chinese.

Remember only touch on the accent

Decide what part of an accent flavors it without creating confusion. My other daughter-in-law is Filipina. (Yes we are an international family.) The syntax of the English language comes out different from her and all my other Filipino friends. Let’s create a short dialog to see how it might sound.

“Madam, see this sale. A buy one take one.” Ana held up her two pair of sandals.

“Nice. But what will your husband say? You already have a lot of shoes.”

Sharon’s question deflated the Filipino girl’s joy.

Ana did not look at her friend for a moment. A smile formed on her lips. “She knows I love shoes.” Her eyes anxious. “It’s okay, ma’am. Don’t worry.” Ana reached inside another bag, her smile regaining its sparkle.

“Look at the watches. I got three pieces for twenty dollars. See, beautiful.”

Sharon determined not to quench her friend’s one real joy by further rebuke.

Immediately it appears there is a typo. Shouldn’t she be he? The term husband usually refers to men. However, the Tagalog language and all the dialects of the Philippines have no pronouns. So often when my daughter-in-law is referring to a man she may slip and say she or her. Pronouns are a confusing part of the English language even after speaking it since grade school. So I would opt not to use this quirk unless the confusion aided in the plot. And it would have to be well-established early on for readers.

But the use of less common English words would give the same feel. Filipinos refer to buy one get one free as buy one take one. Rather than say there are six, its six pieces. Part of the culture is to refer to women as madam and men as sir. Yes ma’am is very common. So we capture her speech pattern in a way not to confuse the reader.

Lastly, let me recommend some great books from experts. For a more in-depth look at dialog check out James Scott Bell’s book How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: the Fastest Way to Improve Your Manuscript. DiAnn Mills The Dance of Character and Plot is another great reference.

How do you capture the essence of your characters?

I would love to have you join me on my writing journey. Follow my blog by clicking a link on the right. You can follow me on FB and Twitter as well.

 

Andrea Merrell Shares: Is There Room in the Writing World for You?

Although this blog was posted on The Write Editing before Christmas I feel Andrea Merrell’s insights are spot on as we enter the New Year. A career in Writing is a difficult journey and as 2018 closes it’s easy to get discouraged and doubtful. I hope you find Andrea’s words as inspiring as I did.

Andrea Merrell 2

 

Is There Room in the Writing World for You?

By Andrea Merrell

It’s hard to know for sure how Mary must have felt the night she was about to give birth to the Savior of the world. Weary, cold, most likely hungry, and going into labor she was surely ready to climb off that donkey and crawl into a soft, warm bed.

But the only words she heard over and over were “no room.”

I can only imagine the other words she heard that night. “Sorry. Filled up. You should have gotten here earlier. Come back another time.” She might have even been told “our rooms are reserved for frequent, high-profile guests.” An earful of discouragement.

Closed sign - artur84

At times we might face that same discouragement as writers—especially after a long journey of conferences, critique groups, appointments, classes, devouring books on the craft … and rejections.

 

No room. Sorry, that category is filled up. You should have submitted your proposal earlier. Come back another time after you rewrite your novel or come up with a new story. Your genre is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Yes, we have spots open, but they’re reserved for our high-profile, well-known authors.

That’s when the Enemy fills our mind with thoughts like: I might as well give up. What’s the point? I’m tired of trying. God must not have called me to do this after all. Maybe He’s even forgotten about me.

silhouette-3837298_960_720

That’s when the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. We either go into hiding or fight for what we want. We might shut down our computers and quit or try to break down the door that has been closed to us. Either way, it’s a waiting game.

 

So, what should we do while we’re waiting? Just keep on, as they say, keepin’ on. Do what God has called us to do. We should never be tempted to try and promote ourselves. That’s God’s job, and He takes it seriously. He’s also very good at it. We need to look to Him for acceptance and approval, find our significance and self-worth in our relationship with Him. One pastor says, “In God’s kingdom you don’t achieve success on your own, you receive it from God. Let others compete and compare. Just stay faithful in what God’s given you to do—and when the time is right … He’ll come and get you.”

I love that statement “He’ll come and get you.” Just like He came after David as the young shepherd was tending sheep, doing the job he was given to do, while his brothers were striving to be Israel’s next king. God had a plan. He knew exactly where David was and how to find him. When the time was right, God sent for him.

The truth is in God’s kingdom there’s always enough room—for all of us. When we belong to and work for the Creator of the universe, the Master of Creativity, there is never a shortage of opportunities. The venue you have in mind may not be the one He has reserved for you, but it’s there with your name on it—not someone with more notoriety.

As a child of God, He has a plan and purpose for you and for your writing. He knows exactly where you are and how to find you. Trust Him for His perfect timing. He will open doors of opportunity that no one else can. There is more than enough room in the writing world—for you!

 

Open door - basketman

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I loved the encouragement Andrea brings to my writer’s heart. It is hard to soldier on in our calling as Writers when doors are closing all around. And even when publishers doors open wide and we feel at last we’ve arrive our own lack of confidence can sabatoga our career goals. I’m starting 2019  with a commitment to renew my trust in the Savior to guide me through the next twelve months as I continue to write, allowing him to be in charge.