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Lessons Learned in Life

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Photo by John Abel

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I remember from an acting class (long long ago and far far away) that the key to great acting isn’t in the delivery of your lines, it’s in your reaction to your fellow actors delivering their lines.

Similarly Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer, said about creating characters in writing: “From Ernest Hemingway’s stories, I learned to listen within my stories for what went unsaid by my characters.”

In other words, more isn’t always more. Sometimes more is less. What your characters leave unspoken often provides more information, reveals more emotion or motivation, packs more punch than what they say.

A great lesson for even greater writing. One I’ll try to remember from now on.

Keep writing

and

Happy writing!

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When I’m starting a fiction project, I sometimes find that everything that comes BEFORE I begin writing–the bios, the research, the plotting–is DRUDGERY! I want to get right to the WRITING part of writing.

Here’s a fun (I think) idea for building fictional characters. I created it when I was writing a sci fi screenplay with multiple characters and had to come up with all kinds of characteristics to 1) differentiate them and 2) keep them all straight in my head.

I build a chart with the names of the characters across the top and the character’s characteristics running down the left side. Then I fill in the boxes. The first set of characteristics are the norm: physical descriptions, age, hobbies, religion, etc. The second set are more unusual and fun and require more creativity and imagination.

This chart isn’t meant to be used instead of a character bio, but in addition to it.

Below is a sample. You can add your own characterstics: whatever you want and how many you want. Whatever gets those creative juices flowing.

Most important: Have FUN with it!

BUILDING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS©

 

BRENDA

FRANK

ZACK

General Zack’s wife. Physically totally made-over. Can’t tell what’s original and what’s not. Looks are an obsession. But she’s pudgy! It’s all about the sex appeal. Works out to look better, not feel better. Brenda’s husband. Eye candy. Tattoo. Only defined by what Brenda tells him to be. Looks are everything.
Ht/Wt. 5’7″/140 lbs. 5/11″/170 lbs. 5’9″/165 lbs.
Eye/Hair Blue/bottle blonde Green/Brown Brown/brown pony tail, goatee
Complexion Salon/bottle Tan Tan Tan
Age 39 38 24
Dress/Clothing Dresses LA Trendy when in the mtns; dresses mountain when in LA Levi’s, cowboy boots, an extra button always unbuttoned LA Trendy even in the mountains.
Character Traits A complete fraud. Never shows her true self. Self-absorbed. Faux perky and sweet. Vain. No conscience, steals, lies, manipulates, gets what he wants no matter what, violent. Sociopath. Self-absorbed. Macho. But a milquetoast with his wife.
Hobbies Surgeries to look good. Dirt-bike racing, drag races, TV wrestling Works out to look good.
Religion Pretends to be a Christian. A Sunday Christian. Jewish.
Family Abusive father. Twice divorced. Sleeps around on his wife. Spoils his kids. Pompous ass of a father.
Vehicle Humvee Summer: Corvette; Winter: pick-up Humvee
Music Classical harp Country/Western Jazz
Drink 2% Milk Mountain Dew  
Vegetable Potato  Corn on the Cob  Artichoke
Fruit      
Animal   Black leopard  
Reptile   Cobra  
Color      
Gemstone      
Alcoholic beverage Champagne spritzers, tropical drinks Chivas Regal straight Imported beers
       
       
       

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