Posts tagged characters

Figuring out your main characters is just as important as figuring out your plot.

So you have worked out a plot. You know how your story starts and where you would like it to end but before you can begin writing it pays to think about your characters. I have some rules that will help you write great characters and also help you write great stories

1) Don’t have too many. Lots of characters are not only confusing to write about, they are confusing to keep track of when you read

2) Its often less important how they look (blue eyes and blond hair is unlikely to have any affect on how they solve their problem and achieve their goals in your story) and more important how they behave. Are they polite and respectful, angry, sad, or rebellious? Are they good at art, maths, good with friends, awkward, or shy??? Do they watch a lot of tv, or read a lot of books? Are they sporty and adventurous? Do they pick their nose, obey their parents, lie, or avoid their homework?

3) Little details can tell you a lot about a person. Do they wear nail polish to school when the school rules forbid it? Do they wear odd socks because home life is disorganised or they think it looks cool? Is that scar from an accident or where they were marked by their enemy? Do they sniff a lot (allergies, bad cold, bad habit?)?

4) The better you know what kind of person your main character is the easier it is to figure out how they are going to deal with the problems you throw at them in your story. Are they the kind of person to solve their problems alone or will they get friends to help? Do they have special skills or talents or are they brave and determined?

5) In the best stories the main character will change or learn something as they solve their problem. Maybe they are a loner who needs to work with others to fight the bad guy. Or perhaps they have to overcome their shyness or their fear. if you have an idea what that change is it will make it easier to write the story.

6) The right name can make a big difference. Calling your character Myrtle or Arthur will have a different affect on your reader, compared with calling them Hannah or Josh. Voldemort would never skip, sing nursery rhymes or smell flowers but then Suzy is unlikely to use the killing curse.

7) Don’t be afraid to have your character behave or react as you would behave or react. It helps make them more real to your reader.  My characters often have bits of me in them but because I mix in some qualities I would like to have and then add a few other qualities no one can tell which part is which.

8) No one is perfect. Your character shouldn’t be perfect either. The best characters have good qualities as well as bad qualities.

Good luck with your characters. The better you know them the easier they will be to write about and the more fun they will be to read about.

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Tips on plots

A good plot makes for a satisfying story. Good plots have good beginnings, good middles and good ends. They usually start with a problem (or an event that creates a problem) for the main character(s) to solve and  we follow the plot along as the character(s) try to solve the problem or take the steps necessary to solving it, until they sort everything out at the end.

I don’t plan my stories out in great detail before I get started but I have a good idea of how I want the story to go and what my ending looks like. Just like the reader, I enjoy being surprised by the story as it develops, but knowing where I am heading makes the it easier for me to get the story to work. For me, knowing who the main character is helps me write the story. If I know the kind of person they are it is easier to figure out what they are going to do in certain circumstances. And knowing what ‘kind’ of story I am telling helps as well. If its horror I know they will maybe be facing some fierce scary monsters in the dark, at night. If its suspense then I don’t know what the monster looks like but they make a lot of loud noises, throw a big shadow and make my character sweat and tremble. If its action then I want my character running, jumping, and maybe fighting. If its fantasy then I get to imagine special powers and special creatures and decide whether they are good or evil. Knowing all this makes it easier to write a good middle. So before you start writing you need to know

1) What the ending (solution to the problem) is

2) What kind of person your main character is

3) What kind of story you are going to write

The best endings are the ones where we have all the information/clues to work it out for ourselves but we are still surprised. It doesn’t work so well if your ending relies on new information not already in the story.  And just like our main character(s), our plot needs a personality. Is it gutsy with a sense of humour? Or serious and athletic? Or is it chatty and relaxed? Nervous and worried? This is the story’s voice and if we can have the same voice all the way through, despite the ups and downs of the characters adventures, no matter how dark or dreadful things get, then the reader has something to rely on as they follow the story through to the end. Writers have to be surprising and reliable all at once!

Next time I’ll talk about creating great characters

Happy writing  !

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Would you like to be a character in my next book?

Happy Friday to you all!

I know you’ll be looking forward to the weekend, with all that time to read, play sport, help with the dishes and do your homework! And don’t forget that Sunday is a very special day for mothers…

I mentioned Brian Falkner in my last blog post. Last night I was remembering the day I worked with him at Taupo Intermediate. That’s when I found out that the characters in his books are the names of real kids he has met during his school tours. He has competitions and the winners get to have their names in his books. How cool is that? I’m sure Brian won’t mind if I use a similar tactic! Here’s my cunning plan…

I am cooking up a series of books in my head. At the moment it’s a bit of stew, or a slow cooking casserole you might say. All the bits are still coming together at a low temperature until the flavour is just right. I can’t tell you the idea at the moment, because it would be commercially sensitive. If you don’t know what that means – ask your teacher or parents. Anyway, I’ve been tossing around a few character names and then I came up with this stupendously fantastical idea! Copy off Brian!

You could become a character in my next book!

So here’s the thing – you use this blog to add a comment telling me in a few sentences why your first name should be used as the character in my next book (hopefully book 1 in a series for kids aged about 8-11 years old). If you don’t like your name, you could suggest another name and give the reasons why one of my characters should be called that. I will have four kid characters – two boys and two girls. There will be other characters too, so there’s plenty of opportunity for yours to be chosen. But you have to have a good reason! You have the whole of May to enter, by adding a comment to my Star Author blog posts. I’ll let you know at the end which ones I’ve chosen.

Bye for now.


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Des Hunt’s fourth blog – Characters (Pt. 2)

I use a grid to work out my characters. Here it is for the main character:

Name Pete Kelly
Other names Pelly
Age 13
Defining Detail/Event Moving from Oz to NZ
Has to endure Taunts. Use the Pelly Can line. Ginga is used in NZ before Pelly becomes a derogatory name.
Appearance/Clothing Red headed, which can lead to some Rusty Pelican comments.
Mannerisms Scratches his head a lot.
Personality At first he is more of a follower than a leader, especially with Kyle. But in NZ he has to stand up for himself to survive.
Backstory Born in NZ but family shifted to Oz when he was two. Can’t remember anything about when he was young in NZ. Has been visiting with family to grandparents, but considers himself an Australian.
Blind spot
Failure to see that Kyle is not a particularly good friend. Kyle uses him to promote his own self-importance.
Conflicts Major ones with his family in the beginning. These get resolved through his strong actions at the climax
Resolution Required He becomes more confident to the stage where he stands up to Kyle. This saves Kyle’s life. He then realizes that in Afi he has a better friend than Kyle. Realizes that Kyle needs him more than he needs Kyle. This leads to an understanding that life in NZ might even be better than his life in Oz.

You may be surprised at how little I have about appearance. I have ideas of what they might look like, but unless it is important to the story I won’t give details in the book. I like the readers to put in their own images. My first novel A Friend in Paradise had no description of the main character, so the publishers thought they should show him on the cover. The boy they showed was nothing like what I’d had in mind. Fortunately, they no longer do this.

Next blog, I’ll talk about plotlines and problems.

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Des Hunt fourth blog – Characters (Pt. 1)

In this instalment I’ll talk about the characters for my chemistry-themed story called Steel Pelicans. In my earlier blogs I told about visits to Wollongong and Port Waikato to sort out locations for the story and to get ideas for the plot. Now I have to finalize ideas about who is going to have these adventures.

Before I started, I knew that the three main characters were going to be boys. Two were to be long time friends who are separated because the main character has to move from Oz to NZ. The third is a NZ boy who becomes a new friend with the main character. It is the conflict between old and new friends that will create the tension and climax of the story.

I know that having three boys is going to make the writing tricky. When all three are in a scene the words “he”, “him”, “his” could refer to any one of them. So I’ll have to refer to them by name more than I would want. There is a way to avoid this. I could write the story in the first person – that’s where one of the characters tells the story. Then I can use “I”, “me” and “my” for that character, who would be the main character. But there’s a problem with using the first person: that character has to be in all the scenes. I can’t, for example, have the main character kidnapped and tell of how the others go about finding him. As it’s likely that I may want to have some scenes back in Oz when main character is in NZ, using the first person is not an option.

Another way I can  avoid the overuse of names, is to give the characters mannerisms. Let’s say that one of the characters has bad pimples and is always picking at them. Then I can use a phrase such as “Again he picked at his pimples.” and the reader will know immediately who the “he” refers to. So it is important that I know my characters well before I start writing.

Read more about my characters in Part 2.

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What are your favourite series books?

Have just picked up my library copy of David Almond’s new book “My name is Mina.” This is a “prequel” to his fabulous novel “Skellig“. Can’t wait to read it.

It’s fun to meet up again with fictional characters when they reappear. I guess that’s why sequels and series books (and prequels) are so appealing. Someone once suggested I write a sequel to “Old Bones” which is not something I’d thought of doing. I certainly haven’t got round to it but did wonder about letting a couple of the characters from that story make a ‘guest appearance’ in another book I’ve been thinking about.

I do have a couple of favourite characters from stories I’ve written. Patrick and Pete are brothers who have ‘starred’ in a few School Journal stories. They’ve also turned up in my ‘Kiwi bite’ book “Going Bananas” under different names, as well as in a couple of other short books (with different names yet again!).

What are your favourite series books?

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Character Duel – who would win?

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A Tardis, a Sonic Screwdriver and the Doctor

Doctor WhoAnother one of my favourite TV shows is Doctor Who.  I’ve watched the last 4 seasons, seen 2 different Doctors, 3 companions and lots of weird planets and monsters along the way.  Season 5 has just started on Sunday nights with a new Doctor, a new companion, and even weirder stories.  I’m still not sure if I like the new Doctor (played by Matt Smith) as much as the last Doctor (played by David Tennant) but the stories are interesting and the monsters are pretty creepy.  One of my favourite monsters, the Weeping Angels, made an appearance at the start of the season, along with the Daleks, and I’m sure we’ll see others returning to wreak havoc on the world.

The Doctor has some interesting gadgets to help him in his travels including his Sonic Screwdriver, Psychic Paper, and his trusty Tardis to help him travel through time and space.  He can travel back in time, forwards in time or even to other dimensions, and he’s been to Pompeii, Victorian England, Venice and right to the end of time.

Have a look at all the Doctor Who books, magazines and DVDs we have in the library for you to borrow.

If you had your very own Tardis where would you go?

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