Tag Archives: believable characters

Take Notes While Writing a Series

11 Nov

While on Twitter the other day, writer A.J. Forrisi asked an amazing question!

P.S. Give A.J. a follow!

My quick answer? Take notes on your first book, so that writing the sequel isn’t as difficult. (And definitely do a read-through. ) I keep a character bible and chapter summaries for each book in a series. Notes help! But what type of notes should you take? How detailed should they be? Everyone’s method is going to be a little different, but I thought I’d share a couple places to start.

 1. Keep a Character Bible

This should cover all descriptors and main personality traits/issues. Personally, I keep a list of every single person mentioned in the book, even the tiniest characters. Why? Because that side character’s eye color is going to come up in book 1 on page 18 and in book 4 on page 127. It would take forever to read the entire series over and over again every time I need to find a detail. That being said, I still think you should read through your work multiple times. If you want to get fancy, take a note of the page number information is written down. That way, you can always double-check.

2. Organize Chapter Summaries

Sum up each chapter in a couple sentences. What happens? How does it change the book? If your book is heavy on revealing secrets, keeping track of what certain characters know will also help. That way, if those secrets move into book two, you don’t have to skim over and over again to find out where and what they learned. One thing I’m sure to emphasize in my chapter summaries is when certain characters make their first appearances. That way, I know when they entered the story (and the description tends to appear at the same time).

3. Other Notes to Consider

I keep a “General Resources” tab on my Scrivener. This is basically a sheet with links to educational websites on topics covered in book. (You know, in case I need a refresher, especially if I’ve taken a break between books.) I also keep a History sheet that tracks the years leading up to the book. Sometimes these events come up in the book, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good to know how my characters arrived at the first chapter. For fun and inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest board and a list of songs that remind me of my story. That way, if I’m finding it hard to get back into the series, I can connect with that original inspiration quicker.

Do you take notes between books? If so, what types?

Feel free to share your method!

~SAT

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#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

22 Aug

Naming characters is really important! It can also be fun…and a little daunting. Choosing them can take hours, and on top of that, publishers might change them anyway. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. In this article, I’ll list a few aspects to consider while naming your characters, and I’ll include websites you can use as tools to find the perfect name.

Have fun!

1. Time & Culture

Is it believable that your character’s parents would name them something within the setting’s restrictions? Of course, there are exceptions, but consider the year. 1880 is going to be VERY different from 2030. Research your setting! If you want, you can actually look up popular names through the years at SSA, [Social Security Association.] Also, BabyNames.com allows you to explore baby names based on origin, ex. Irish names, Persian names, etc. Babynames.com provides thousands of names within cultures, meanings, genders, and more. You can even save your favorite names as you skip around. (Don’t be surprised if people ask you why you’re looking up baby names in public. I’ve been “congratulated” on a number of occasions.)

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2. Last Names and Family Lineage

Remember most parents use iambic pentameter for names. The rhythm should work. On top of that, you can consider naming a character after another character. A son may be named after his father or grandfather. Last Name Meanings provides a list of last names and where they derived from, along with the meaning behind them.

3. Unique and Memorable

Of course everyone knows not to use names already used in very famous novels, but what about within your own book? Avoid repetitive names or sounds. You probably don’t want to name everyone with a “J” name. It’d be hard to follow Jack, John, Jared, and Jill around. Personally, I suggest making a list of characters names in alphabetical order so you can physically see what is represented. Consider start, end, and syllables. The exception generally happens within relationships. Example? If you have brothers, maybe they will have similar names, but don’t overdo it.

4. Mixing Names (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Listen, we all know sci-fi/fantasy generally calls for unique names, but tread carefully. Having a character names Zzyklazinsky is going to be WAY too hard for a reader’s eyes. Sometimes, your best bet is taking well-known names and simply mixing them to create something more relatable but unique, ex. Serena + Violet = Serolet. Try NameCombiner.com to see what you can come up with.

5. Look All Around You

There are so many references on the Internet to find names. Other than those websites stated above, get creative. Pick up an old yearbook. You’ll be surprised how many different first and last names (along with rhythms) you can find. However, I suggest not using a person’s exact name, but rather use it as a reference. Maybe a first or a last. When I recently atteneded a high school graduation, I kept the pamphlet with all the names on it. There’s nothing like needing a quick reference – a real one – that isn’t online. Even funnier? A real Noah Welborn was on there. (My male protagonist from The Timely Death Trilogy is named Eric Welborn, but his little brother is named Noah Welborn.) Sometimes, reality fuses with fiction. And, of course, life in general. If you’re at a restaurant and notice your waiter’s name on his nametag, jot it down. Even if you don’t use it now, you might in the future…which brings me to my last point.

Keep a list of names that you love (and maybe even why you love them). That way, when you’re ready to write another book, you have a notebook filled with ideas already, and you can start right away.

A mixture of all these things creates a list of believable characters, and I really hope you’ll enjoy playing around with names more than before!

Original posted April 29, 2013

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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Writing Tips: Hobbies & Talents

13 Nov

A writer has many goals when creating a story–one of which is making the characters as believable as possible. The main way to do this is making them relatable. I do not mean to say this in the sense that an author should make a character relatable to everyone in every way. What I mean to say is that an author often forms a believable character by adding qualities real people have; therefore, allowing real people to relate to a character on either a personal or “I know someone like that” level.

There are many ways to do this. Generally focusing on a character’s age, background, attitude, and physical looks come first. But what about digging a little deeper?

This post is about deciding on hobbies and talents–as well as why they are different.

Hobbies:

A hobby is something we do because we like to do it. It could be gardening or cooking or anything really. It generally gives people solace, time to think, and adds joy in their life. Having a character with a hobby can broaden the spectrum of their personality by showing more of what they like and possibly what they want out of life. It can also warp the way they look at the world. For instance, someone who really loves running will look at a hill differently than someone who like flying kites. They see the same hill that can be used in different ways. So knowing a character’s ultimate hobby (or passion) can be a fantastic way to figure out their personality, perspective, and goals.

In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric’s hobby is his love for cars. He loves reading about them, driving his, and hopes to have more in the future (if he can even consider the future.) I learned from this because driving is often a form a freedom, and Eric doesn’t have any. Driving is his only freedom. But I particularly love talking about hobbies because it’s a major theme in Seconds Before Sunrise, particularly with Jessica and Jonathon–also known as Pierce. (I cannot wait for the cover reveal Dec. 1) I love it when my characters discover more parts about themselves, and discovering their hobbies allowed me to learn more about who they are as a person and who they will become as an adult. It also allows them to see it for themselves.

Below is my personal example: I played a lot of sports in school. I played track and basketball in middle school and tennis in high school. I still have my tennis team’s photo, but I wanted to share it because I loved playing tennis. I wasn’t fantastic at it. But I still had a great time playing. It was a hobby rather than a talent, but it still shaped me, and I learned a lot from it:

I’m the glowing one.

I’m the glowing one.

Talents: 

A talent is something we excel in, sometimes with little to nor effort. It could be painting or education or even convincing people to listen to you. Yes, a lot of people’s talents are also their hobbies (or vice versa) but it can be really interesting to see a character who’s very good at something they hate. (Or really bad at something they love.) But I’d like to clarify that there is nothing wrong with someone having a talent and loving it at the same time!

In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric has a knack for lying. Does he like doing this? Not necessarily. Does he use it to his advantage? Absolutely. This “talent” became fun when Jessica decided to have a “talent” for knowing if someone is lying or not.

How to choose what hobby or talent to use:

Well, Discover A Hobby, of course! It’s a website dedicated to opening opportunities for informative learning on all kinds of new hobbies (even ones you might not have known existed.) I think this website is great for helping decide on hobbies as well as talents. Just to name a few on their website:

Soap-Making, Palm-Reading, Tai Chi, Wood-Working, and Novel-Writing. (See? Even us writers made it on there.)

Happy Hobby Hunting!

Do your characters have hobbies and/or talents? Are they generally the same or different? Did you learn anything about your characters when they choose that hobby or talent? 

~SAT

Writing Tips: Character Chart

31 May

Over the past two days, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving two more reviews of Minutes Before Sunset and one interview about the behind-the-scenes of the work. And I’m here to share it with you all before I begin my “Writing Tips” sessions.

On May 29, Nada Faris, author of Before Young Adult Fiction, Fame in the Adriatic, and ‘Artemis’ and other Moms wrote a five-star review on Goodreads: 

“…This story has twists and turns (even the prophecy changes). It has magical powers, romance, and some funny moments. As a young adult novel, it will satisfy its readers. All in all, the first book in A Timely Death series, was promising. It sets the stage for more conflict. Seconds Before Sunrise, Book 2 of the series, is scheduled for release in fall 2013.”

Read the rest of her review by clicking here.

The five signed copies of Minutes Before Sunset are in the mail for the winners! Congrats!

The five signed copies of Minutes Before Sunset are in the mail for the winners! Congrats!

On May 30, Tina Williams, host of A Reader’s Review, wrote an analysis of my recently released novel while also expanding it with an interview/guest post: (Click the links to read more.) 

Review: “…Minutes Before Sunset is an original and compulsive read. The tale is told in the first person, with chapters told from the perspective of Eric and Jessica. This is effective in terms of both advancing the plot and giving depth to the characters. I particularly enjoyed the maturity and selflessness of the hero and heroine, Eric and Jessica, and found their growing attraction and love for one another both believable and sweet. The novel ends in such a way that I am chomping at the bit to read the next installment. Minutes Before Sunset is a magical, if slightly dark tale, containing romance and adventure, which explores fate and free will and self-sacrifice. I recommend it to readers of both adult and young adult paranormal romance.”

Interview: “As a much younger child, I often suffered from nightmares and night terrors (I honestly couldn’t differentiate between reality and dreams) so my mother had me turn them into stories in order to cope. My latest young-adult paranormal romance, Minutes Before Sunset, is actually a result of the same thing, but it was a different series of dreams. I was in a very dark time in my life, and I had dreams of a boy visiting me at night—just to talk. He’d ask me about how I was feeling, what I was going to do next, and what my hopes were for the future. When I got through that dark time, the dreams were quite literally ripped away from my conscious, and I was distraught. Despite my happiness, I still wanted him as if he was a real person, so I created a story explaining his visits. And Minutes Before Sunset was born.”

Special thanks to both of these talented and lovely ladies. I am proud and grateful to have such great supporters like you all. 

In case anyone is curious, Minutes Before Sunset is available as a paperback on Barnes & Noble and Amazon as a preorder. It will be shipped to you on June 14, 2013. Click the links to be directed to the website. (And don’t forget to let me know if you review it! I will put your blog right here.)

Now. ::takes deep breath:: The writing tips! 

I’m a big fan of graphs and charts. Seriously. I graph everything. (I’m sure I’ll do more posts on this later–you will not believe the things I can find ways to graph.) But why do I like to graph and chart?

Whether or not I expect it, graphs and charts show something–a pattern or lack thereof–and I think this visual information can help more than a writer (or reader) might originally think. So I came across one the other day called The Character Chart, and I wanted to share it with you all. I would take a screen shot and post it, but the website asks users to “link only” and use only for personal use, and I want to respect that. 

However, I will say that it is a great chart. It’s basically a questionnaire for you to print out and get in-depth with your characters about who they are, what drives them, and who they will become. I particularly like this one because of the detail involved (like self-perception compared to reality.) This is not to say that all of these details are completely necessary to know, but I do say this: this list will challenge you, no matter how well you know a character (especially minor ones), and you might learn something about your character you haven’t expected. I think this list is great for those who are also looking to bring depth to their character (or even to create an entirely new person!)

I’ll definitely be returning to it. Again, I’d share more about it, (I’d even share my answers for Eric or Jessica in Minutes Before Sunset) but I want to respect his copyright properly, so all I can really say is check it out :] And let me know if you’d like to see more interactive websites like this. I’ll be sure to share them as they come.

~SAT

P.S I hope everyone is enjoying the arrival of summer. I sure am! And I wanted to share a piece of my lake fun with everyone: Have a great (and sunny) day!

I'm on a boat...wait...a raft.

I’m on a boat…wait…a raft.

Writing Tips: Keeping Track of Time

11 Mar

How many times have you been following a television show, and there is a full moon every episode? Or their clothes don’t change? Or the weather stays the same all year long, unless snow, rain, or sunshine is used for symbolic enhancement?

It’s unrealistic, and it drives me crazy. It may be a personal pet peeve of mine, but I doubt it. Even Florida doesn’t have sunshine every day, but writers seem to set weather and time aside, especially when they’re more focused on the storyline. At first, I completely agree. Write. Don’t worry about small details. However, I really think revision is necessary for situations like this. Time needs to be tracked. 

When I do revisions, I actually label each chapter with what day it is, what time it is, and how long the chapter lasts. Then I move onto the next chapter and then the next. At the end, I count how many days have passed, and I make sure my characters’ speech correlate to it. I wouldn’t want my protagonist to say, “You haven’t left me alone for weeks!” when it’s only been four days.

My best piece of advise? After writing every chapter, track how much time passes and make sure EVERYTHING correlates: time, seasons, moon cycles, etc. 

When I was writing November Snow, this was initially really easy, but for one reason–each chapter was labeled by a date. The only thing I had to do was print a November, 2089 calendar and follow it. It would’ve been difficult to mess up. But, when it comes to the other novels I’ve written, I had to pay attention much more, because chapters weren’t labeled. Time passed differently, and I had to pay attention to everything: days, seasons, moon cycles, etc. Some say the moon cycle is extreme, but, really? You can’t have a full moon every chapter. I’ve seen this happen one hundred times, and, as a reader, I notice, so I strive to pay attention to these things, extreme or not.

2089-11

This is an example of how I kept track of November Snow. Each chapter is on there, blue represented the viewpoint of Daniel, while pink was Serena. The yellow star is the full moon.

Not only should you keep track of time passing in the present moment of your novel, but you need to track your characters’ past. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something, went back, and realized I contradicted myself on when one character did something. For instance, I might say Protagonist 1 met Side Character 1 at birth, but ten chapters later I say they met as teens. Even though we, as writers, like to believe we memorize everything we say (because it is so real to us) we don’t have perfect memories. As humans, we don’t even remember everything about our own lives, let alone hundreds of stories and characters we’ve created.

This is an example of what I create to keep track of a childhood. Daniel's list shows year, age, and interactions with other characters are bolded.

This is an example of what I create to keep track of a childhood. Daniel’s list shows year, age, and interactions with other characters are bolded.

I normally create tables, and they save my life during revision, especially if I take a few weeks off between writing and revision to clear my head. I really recommend trying this. It will help you solidify your world, and you will feel more confident about your creations, because you will KNOW–for a fact–that everything fits together perfectly.

~SAT

Check out my cover photo on my Facebook Author Page by clicking here. Don't forget that you have the opportunity to display your name and website here by joining the book cover contest before March 18th!

Check out my cover photo on my Facebook Author Page by clicking here. Don’t forget that you have the opportunity to display your name and website by joining the book cover contest before March 18th!

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