How Do I Create My Male Characters?

Characters mostly choose their narrator. I can say that convincingly having experienced that a number of times with my characters: they come, I start the story and they take over!

I am often asked how I manage to portray my male characters so realistically? Is it difficult to switch from gender to gender and be equally convincing, giving them the same depth?
Well, after all, both female and male characters are people, and this is where the skill lies – in writing about people and their intertwined relationships honestly, skillfully and in-depth.

The majority of my novels are written in the first person perspective and in the body of one novel I write in both genders. When I start the story writing as a woman the reader enters into the world of certain sensibility. I am not talking of stereotyping and typical ‘female sensibility’, as my women are often very strong-headed with very distinguished characteristics and strength of character and psyche, but still, regardless of their strong personalities they are female characters.
Being a woman, it is easy for me to sympathise with any of my female characters regardless of their age, nationality or any kind of background. I can portray with equal zest and plasticity the girl of a tender age or a woman whose rich and long life is nearing its end, as I do in my books.

Characters mostly choose their narrator. I can say that convincingly having experienced that a number of times with my characters: they come, I start the story and they take over!

I am not going to claim that I get my male characters perfect as they are very demanding, capricious, strong-headed and tend to hide their feelings. I have to dig deep to discover their real feelings, and the depth of them, but the more reluctant they are to uncover their feelings the more determined I am to dig them out and expose them to the light of day. I love exploring human feelings, the reasons why we do what we do, why we act the way we act, what lies deep down that governs our behavior and leads us to chose a certain path.

When I was growing up I read classic literature.
There were only two female writers that were assigned as compulsory literature in high school: Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen; the rest were male writers, therefore I read many great writers whose characters were predominantly male characters. I was fascinated by the majority of them, by their secret inner world, their psyche, the way they thought, acted, by their view of women et cetera.

My male characters are so far from my psyche that it seems like an almost impossible task to ‘get them right’. The only thing I had in common with the character of Vito Del Bianco was – we were both writers. He is a womanizer, a bon vivant, heavy drinker, cynic, and a cunning man. He loved and lived on the wild side taking advantage of people and situations.
Just like Nicholas O’B, a selfish, self-destructive wannabe writer, a gambler, liar, cheat and a skilled master of manipulation and deceit.

Otto Visconti is a misfit. A poet who interprets the world in a very unique way: he is suspicious, overwhelmingly pessimistic showing poor and degenerate demeanor and lifestyle due to the lack of self-confidence and inner strength. He blames his parents for his misfortunes and lack of stamina, mainly his mother, which makes him create an unreal view of women, unreal expectations and ridiculous, unsuccessful attempts to charm any woman or win any friend.

How do I fit there? Under the skin of such a character or in his milieu?
I let them be. I let them express themselves; I listen to them.
I evoke and explore old memories, the place where I store all the characters I’ve ever met; I study people thoroughly all the time and ask myself constantly, ‘How does he feel right now?’, ‘Why did he say that and how can I see on his face, in his gestures that he really meant it?’, ‘What is his body language saying about him, his feelings and hidden motives?’
I endlessly analyse my characters. I sympathise and empathise with them trying to get out of me all those feelings that they might feel or might hide.
While I write about them I live their lives, I get into their heads and I converse with them asking them to reveal their deepest thoughts, secrets and dreams: pleasant, unpleasant, ordinary, wild, cruel or unselfish, the whole range of emotions. For me it matters more what they feel than how they comb their hair or what type of shirt they are wearing.

When I bring out all of their emotions I know that it is going to be convincing … surely for some of my readers; as I can’t claim that my male characters are perfect, I know, at least, that they are – colourful.


This post is contributed as Guest post by Branka Cubrilo.


I am an author of 7 written novels (written from 1981 – 2011). Five of them were published by three different publishers (I am writing in two languages).

Contribute a post to Being Author Blog [Submit NOW]

The Musicality of Writing Fiction

If you were one of those people who were born with an ear for language and telling a story, I greatly envy you.

Songs are typically written in a specific key. For example, Pachelbel Canon, familiar to many as the Christmas Canon, is written in the key of D. That means there are notes that are correct and work for that song, and notes that would be discordant and “out of tune” or wrong.

(A quick side note, I’m aware that some music, singing or collections of sounds are meant to be discordant.)

On a much simpler level, the song Louie Louie, as recorded by The Kingsmen, is in the key of A Major.

Someone could change the key Louie Louie is played in, but that means it is played with different notes to a different effect and sound.

Modern jazz tunes can be played in a particular key and also improvised in many different ways. A jazz musician could play Louie Louie or Pachelbel Canon in D to an entirely different purpose and sound than what people usually associate with these pieces.

The point is, the key a musical piece is originally written in doesn’t limit the choices of the way in which it can be played, but there’s a difference between someone new to music hitting wrong notes and an accomplished musician improvising with the intent of creating a variation.

I’m not a classically trained musician, but I can tell the difference between a wrong note being played and a thoughtful, musical variation or interpretation.

Now lets bring that back to writing. Harry Potter is a novel about fitting in. All the choices in this novel revolve around, let’s say, playing a simple rock and roll song in the key of A Major.

Because author J. K. Rowling understands the song/story she is playing, she hits the right notes. Harry Potter wants to fit in. The Dursleys want to fit in. The conflict in the world of magic is over pure blood (pure notes) and mixed blood (improvised notes, so to speak). Rowling sticks to her themes, weaving her story and characters seamlessly into her central idea. She knows the world in which her story takes place, much like a composer knows the key of his or her composition, and everything falls within those boundaries. If anything lands outside of it, it doesn’t ring true, just as a musical piece that hits a wrong note will not work in a musical composition.

Now, a new, struggling writer could set out to write a Harry Potter-type fantasy. But this writer starts out with an idea for a character or a plot event, or some other starting point. To someone reading this manuscript, because the writer hasn’t settled on a key to set the story, notes are discordant. Maybe the writer doesn’t know the world in which the story has taken place. Maybe the writer hasn’t settled on a central theme or conflict. Perhaps the characters are not well developed. These are all critical elements to creating a story that harmonizes, that brings a sense of accord and beauty to the reader.

The writer makes choices about how to describe characters, but someone the description is flat or fails to advance the story.

The words/notes aren’t set/being played in the correct key of the story.

Reading manuscripts by new or struggling authors, I’ve found I have to get to the end of the novel to find out what the story is about, or, in this context, in what key it should be played.

That requires the author to go back to the beginning of the story and find a way to convey, what Harry Potter-like fantasy the “key” the book belongs in.

The writer chooses what type of story/song they are playing.

The foundation for my a story is a promise concept is to understand a story and to make choices based on that understanding.

Looking at stories from this frame of reference, The Dead by James Joyce, and The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, are the Pachelbel Canon and the Louie Louie of stories, but each hits note correct for each song.

Criticism of a story ‘not working’ are an observation that the story notes don’t create the effect of a pleasing song for a particular audience, with the understanding that different music appeals to different audiences.

In the movie Francis Florence Jenkins, the main character sang opera horribly off key, but an album she recorded was so odd, people bought it to hear badly sung opera as a comic gesture or to discover what the fuss was about. This is not the audience most writers want for their novels, so it is imperative to know what “key” you are creating in, and then to use notes that are in harmony with that key.

I’ve come across people who had a good ear for music/language and were willing to learn how to compose a story/song that played in particular key and pleased an audience. They had an ear for the tones created by words and they could create an enjoyable story melody. Such a composition may not have obeyed all the rules of grammar, but the story and its notes worked. An example is The Davinci Code. Not great writing, but mostly in tune in a way that allowed its audience to enjoy the story, in spite of the people who pointed out its faults.

And, just like in popular music, there are those one-hit wonders who write a song/novel that sells millions of copies but mystifies people who enjoy well-played music.

If you were one of those people who were born with an ear for language and telling a story, I greatly envy you. Much of my success as a writer has been as a playwright because of my imagination and an ear for dialogue. How to create a plot, that I had to learn.

Guest post by Author Bill Johnson (@bjscript on Twitter) 

About the Author

Bill Johnson is web master of Essays on the Craft of Dramatic Writing, a site that explores principles of storytelling through reviews of popular movies, books and plays (www.storyispromise.com), and author of A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon. His plays have been produced around the United States.

Authors as Autodidacts: The More You Know

The more you know, the more you have to write about.

What is an autodidact? Is it just someone who is well read, or who knows a lot about a number of things? No. An autodidact is a someone not only who is self-taught, but who is also still learning.

Benefits

There is nothing wrong with structured education. In fact, many self-learners got their love of learning from a formal education background. But there are a number of benefits of being a self-learner.

Career: With few career exceptions, no one has to do more research than an author, especially if you are like most authors and also do freelance writing or something else to make a living. Write what you know does not mean what you think it does: writer’s are constantly researching and expanding their base of knowledge.

Writers who are also proven researchers often work in the field of business intelligence, where they gather information, analyze it, and summarize it in written or presentation form for decision makers. Smaller companies who cannot afford full time staff often hire freelancers for such positions. Being an autodidact makes an author or freelancer an ideal candidate for this type of work.

Cognitive Issues: Many authors struggle with some kind of mental illness, and there is even some debate about whether or not they should try to heal, but they often come across as really sharp people.

The reason is simply that cognitive issues are mitigated by lifelong learning, and self-learning may be even better than continuing formal education. Remaining connected to intellectual pursuits of any kind has been cited by the World Health Organization as “active aging” and a deterrent to ailments like Alzheimer’s and other mental diseases.

Natural vs. Acquired Curiosity

There are some people who seem to be just drawn naturally to learning. They love libraries, museums, and it seems like they are always taking a college course, community class, or engaging in learning in some other way.

However, even if you are not a natural learner, you can train yourself to be an autodidact, and reap not only the benefits listed above, but also the value that additional knowledge will bring to your writing work, no matter what genre you write in.

Make Time To Learn: Make learning a part of your everyday routine. Take classes often or just engage actively in research on a topic that interests you, even if it is not directly related to what you are doing at the moment.

Find Your Best Times to Learn: Everyone has their own rhythm, and times when they function best mentally. For me, writing early in the morning works best, while other learning and activities can take place later in the afternoon. I save other tasks that require less mental skill for later in the afternoon, when I tend to hit a lull. Find the time that works best for you, and include learning in your schedule.

Keep Track of What You Learn: This might sound silly, but sometimes as authors we get caught up in the day to day of writing, research, and all of the other tasks we need to do, and don’t keep track of our progress, especially in these secondary areas. Making a record of your learning lets you see progress, and look back on significant accomplishments. Not to mention it looks good on your LinkedIn profile.

Learn Your Way: Use your learning style. There are tons of ways people deliver content about different subjects, from podcasts to webinars, blog posts to video presentations. Find information that caters to the way you learn, and use that method whenever possible. Although it does not hurt to stretch the ways you can learn: sometimes a different learning style is just the method you need to grasp and elusive subject.

Competitive Advantage

As fiction writers, we are not really in competition. There are enough readers out there for all of us, and we don’t have to fight over them. When it comes to freelance clients, the same thing is true, to an extent.

However, if you are going after a regular paying freelance gig that is pretty lucrative, the likelihood is that another freelancer might be going for that same job. It’s helpful to not only know your competition, but know how to stand out from them.

One of the simplest ways is to have a lot of education on your resume in a variety of areas, and even let your prospective employer know you are an autodidact: self taught in a number of areas and able to learn a new one quickly and thoroughly.

The more you know, as an author and freelancer, the more valuable you are. The more value you bring to your writing, the more compelling it will be for your readers. The knowledge you have as a freelancer makes you more valuable to the companies who will hire you.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Troy Lambert.

Contribute a post to Being Author Blog [Submit NOW]

Vocabulary- When and How to let it shine

Remember… words inspire, words educate and words touch, and anything with that kind of power Must be used wisely… and well.

My name is Joy and I’ve recently started a new blog. I’ve been writing for years, but I have recently discovered that there are many differences between writing a story and writing a blog, and the most obvious differences have to do with vocabulary.

There is no doubt that vocabulary is a very important tool for a writer. The use of good vocabulary is what takes a series of words on a paper and turns them into a living, breathing idea. Done correctly, it takes that idea and makes it, at least temporarily… tangible. It is what draws the reader in, catches their interest and allows them to imagine the sight and sound and SMELL of what you have written on the paper.

Of course, things like proper grammar and sentence structure and such are important to a writer as well but you can have the most properly structured, grammatically correct sentence that endows the reader with important information, and still lose your readers interest.

That’s why, when I started writing my blog, and I noticed a tendency to use certain words repetitiously, I was dismayed. The difference of course, has to do with the length of your work.

For example: If you write a chapter in a story, and it is twenty pages long, and you have used the word ‘beautiful’ five times, it is likely that that will go unnoticed by the reader. However, if you write a one page blog post, and use the word “beautiful” five times… not only is it obvious, it takes away from the quality of your writing and gives the impression of laziness.

This is why, when I noticed the tendency to use certain words often, I decided that it would be worthwhile to brush up on my vocabulary and to make it a point to use more varied words in my writing.

To help me along, and to share my idea with other literary souls, I added a Word of The Day post to my blog. Every few days, I try to add new words, their definitions, and whenever possible, Synonyms as well.

I also went out and started reading posts written by other people that had to with writing. Posts with advice about things like Tense, First Person, View point, that sort of thing, and it is then that I realized that vocabulary also has the power to alienate your reader.

Here is what happened, and the conclusions that I have made because of it.

I went to read a post that was based on good ways to start a novel. Seems like a fairly important topic and I was very interested in what it had to say. If I were to guess, I would say that it was written by a university English Major or a Professor… someone with a very in-depth knowledge of the topic.

I started reading and almost immediately got lost. I consider myself to have a fairly good vocabulary, but in many cases, the terminology that the writer was using was completely outside of my understanding, and because of that, I was unable to follow along. I got bogged down in terms I didn’t know, and then I got frustrated and I exited the post.

This brings me to the main reason that I wanted to write this post. A little lightbulb went on above my head and I realized that the reader’s ability to understand the vocabulary is just as important as your ability to use it!

Vocabulary is a wonderful tool, as long as we use it in a manner that works and in order to do that, we must first understand our audience.

Before you dust off your thesaurus and pull out your dictionary, decide who your audience is going to be, and change the type of vocabulary accordingly.

Here are some examples:

Writing for peers-

If you are a Doctor, making a presentation to other Doctors, then by all means, break out your big words, technical terms and medical jargon because you can rest assured that your audience will understand the meaning of them.  In this case you can dust off that dictionary and let your light shine. Show off and be proud of your vast knowledge.

Writing to Students-

By this I mean, your audience will be someone that you hope to teach something to. Someone you would like to impart your knowledge to. This person may have a very limited knowledge of the topic at hand, and in this case using language or terminology that they aren’t familiar with will hinder their ability to learn.

Yes, you can and should, use terminology that is relevant to the topic, most especially if they will need to know it at a later date. HOWEVER, you must ensure that you are also providing a clear definition of each term, as well as the context in which it will apply to them or their situation.

Writing to the General Public – (such as a fiction novel)

If you have a very widely targeted audience, then again, using technical jargon or words that require them to get out a dictionary every few paragraphs could be off putting. By all means, dust off your vocabulary and be sure to use a nice variety of words. Ensure that there is enough context in sentences with unusual words that they are able to understand the gist of your idea, even if they aren’t actually familiar with the word you have used.

In fact, this is the type of writing that allows you to really have fun and play with your words, and they don’t need to be 15 letters long to make a big impact. Use vocabulary that evokes feelings, or allows visualization.

Make use of  Onomatopoeia (words that sound like the sound the word is about… like Beep or click) and Alliteration (using a series of words that begin with the same letter).

Here is an example that uses both…

The silver snake slid softly across the sloping sand. While the only word that is actually onomatopoeia is slid, the series of repeated ‘s’ sounds gives a very strong impression to the audience. It allows them to almost hear the slithering sound that the snake would be making as it slid.

Here is an example that uses Alliteration…

Little Lily Loped along the lane. This sentence, when read out loud actually gives the verbal impression of someone skipping along. Say it to yourself to see what I mean… the sound of each word rises and falls in much the same way that the sound of the person’s feet would as they skip. This immediately involves the reader and allows them to visualize whats happening.

To wrap up, I’d like to get back to how writing a blog differs from writing a longer piece, like a novel or even a short story, and how the use of a good vocabulary can help.

If I were a travel writer, and my assignment was to go to Antigua to discuss beaches (of which there are 365) … my blog could very easily end up with a large number of repetitious words.

After all, a beach is basically made up of sand or rocks and water and in order to describe each one to the reader in a way that doesn’t quickly become both repetitious and downright boring, I would need every trick in the book. As much fun as the idea of visiting each beach in Antigua would be, I could easily picture it as being the most challenging assignment possible.

I hope that this post has inspired you to polish up your big girl (or boy) words and bring them out to play, and I am confident that we will all grow and improve along with our budding vocabularies, both as writers… and as teachers.

Remember… words inspire, words educate and words touch, and anything with that kind of power Must be used wisely… and well.

Until next time…

Happy writing!

This post is contributed as Guest post by VJ Detlor