• Member Since 17th Jan, 2015
  • offline last seen Oct 23rd, 2018

Theigi


I'm just here for the Dazzlings, to be quite honest. Bow to the queens.

More Blog Posts127

Feb
3rd
2016

Some more bizarre writing advice: Character Psych · 7:33pm Feb 3rd, 2016

Back in ancient times when dinosaurs roamed the land (last June), I made a blog post meant to be a rant. That post unexpectedly ended up turning into a rather bizarre writing advice blog:
Outside of a formal literary setting, WRITE HOWEVER YOU WANT.

And the recent overall climate of my creativity (lukewarm. It's lukewarm) has inspired me to make another one. If anyone finds it useful, I can do some more.

No, wait! Come back!

Now, while I may not be a master of the written word or even a professional by a longshot, I like to think that I'm okay enough to give a few pointers here or there to those who consider themselves writing enthusiasts. Those who are looking for ways to improve their writing to make it more engaging, and who might want to hear from someone who is an eternal student themselves. In addition to that, I'm totally not intimidating at all (that can be sarcasm if you want it to be)!

Keep in mind, these are my suggestions. Just as one should with any form of advice given by a creature who is not the supreme ruler of the universe, you can take or leave whatever I suggest. However, I will state as fact that someone who is looking to improve upon their writing should do two things: 1. READ OFTEN. Study and even imitate elements of writings that you enjoy. 2. WRITE OFTEN. You should be thinking about how you're writing, and should be EXPERIMENTING WITH YOUR WRITING. This goes for any aspect of your writing project: Characters, descriptions, tenses, perspectives, genres, styles, etc. I know tons of folx would say that writing how and what makes you most comfortable is the best bet to... I don't know... writing something. But I've had much more success in overall improvement when I try something different from what I feel is my "standard".

Or, you know what? Maybe we'll just save that topic for later.

I don't want to digress. In this blog, I want to talk about the basics of beefing up your characters, particularly about how you can make your characters more relatable by delving into their psyche. I think this topic is a good jumping off point from my first rant advice blog which was about making characters more relatable through their speech, and how to improve the believability and "realistic" quality of your characters' speeches.

RIGHT! Getting into your character's head:

So, I read a ton of stories of all types, including fanfiction, and including stories written by professionals and hobbyists alike. I will say that one thing that kills my enthusiasm for any story—especially if I am reading something that is so deliciously good with the premise—is reading flat characters.

We have all heard the "Tell vs. Show" rule—which in my opinion isn't written in stone—but I can't tell you how many writers will take the "Show" rule to heart with their world building and with their characters' physical actions whilst completely foregoing the same rule when it comes to their characters' minds.

If I am reading about a character with whom I am supposed to relate, then I want to know why I should relate with them. Going through the motions of ONLY writing out a character's actions can either be used as an overall stylistic choice OR a subtle way to talk about a character's mindset once it has already been established. But in the long run, if the reader is allowed to consistently behold the depth of a character's thoughts and emotions, it will make the entire piece more engaging as a whole. Granted, in a typical third person narrative, things might stylistically be more cold and distant than they are in a first person narrative, but that doesn't mean you can't squeeze some of these character psych-boosting elements into the spaces where they will fit. If you're savvy, they will work. Trust me. Do you trust me?

Oh... Um. Okay, well at least hear me out.

What do I mean by all of this? Well, since I'm clearly not the best with explaining things, I'll give you an example (featuring Aria because, duh):

By the time she plopped down onto the couch, her eyes were already closed and every one of her features drawn into a deep scowl. She couldn't bring herself to look at Adagio today. Her night had been a long one spent digging through piles of filth, and she simply couldn't muster the energy. She brooded over her lost treasures and the insufferable sister who had deemed it acceptable to take such precious things away from her. Aria scoffed. Adagio had done this on purpose. If only the eldest Siren could know just what type of war she had just started.

Aria wanted to smile, but knew it would be unwise. That would be far too telling, and Adagio was inclined to be suspicious. Instead, in perfect form, she raised a clenched fist up to the level of her chin, and extended the arm outward toward her elder. The middle digit of her hand unfurled itself until, finally, it stood cocked in the space between them.

The corners of Aria's lips curled upward just barely before, at last, her eyes opened.

Okay, now compare that to:

By the time she plopped down onto the couch, her eyes were already closed and every one of her features drawn into a deep scowl. She couldn't bring herself to look at Adagio today. Her night had been a long one spent digging through piles of filth, and she simply couldn't muster the energy. That insufferable Adagio knew how much those albums had meant to her. How, by the seas, how could she have ever figured it might be acceptable to throw such precious and beloved things away, especially without asking first? Aria scoffed. She knew how. Because Adagio had done this on purpose, of course. That witch. If only the eldest Siren could know just what type of war she had just started.

Aria ceded that she wasn't a Siren of many kind words like Sonata or tactile lies like Adagio, but that didn't mean she was altogether transparent with her foulness. She would have her revenge eventually. Even now, thoughts of her elder sister's knife-shredded silks, and hammer-cracked jewels had begun to warm the cockles of the dour Siren's spiteful heart. She wanted to smile, but knew it would be unwise. That would be far too telling, and Adagio was inclined to be suspicious. Instead, in perfect form, she raised a clenched fist up to the level of her chin, and extended the arm outward toward her elder. The middle digit of her hand unfurled itself until, finally, it stood cocked in the space between them.

The corners of Aria's lips curled upward just barely. Now she could tolerate looking at her.

First of all, ignore how bad of an example this is. I literally just belched it out one second ago.

Alright, we all know this character's mannerisms, and as readers we may even think that we know, generally speaking, what she is thinking and feeling. But there is something so much more satisfying when the feelings are verified and explained, preferably using the character's inner voicing. When I as a reader know for sure that I am completely understanding of this character, this is what deepens my bond with that character.

Don't get me wrong, both versions of those texts are acceptable (I hope), but one of them is spiced up with a thought process and inner voice which, in real life, we know we would never be able to hear. The character's mind is as much of an intimate space as our own. Getting to know what's in it allows readers to feel like they know what type of being this character truly is in a way that no one else can know or see. These descriptive additions don't just stop with what type of actions the character is showing to the outside world. Those will always be limited in comparison to what is happening inside.

Here's a shorter example:

A gradual smile spread across her face. Her feet had frozen to their spots. She pinched herself upon the arms to check to see if she was dreaming, then leapt up into the air, screaming for joy. "Are you kidding me? Hell yea, I will!" she cried.

Vs.

A gradual smile spread across her face. Her feet had frozen to their spots. Was this real? No. There was no way this was actually happening to her. She considered for a moment that she was dreaming, and pinched her arms a few times. The stinging was horrible, but it seemed a small price to pay in the case that this moment was, in fact, real. Verifying that she wasn't trapped within the most cruel dream ever, she leapt up into the air, screaming for joy. "Are you kidding me? Hell yea, I will!" she cried.

With ALL of that said, I will throw in this final tidbit: KNOW YOUR CHARACTER IN AND OUT. If you don't know your character then their inner dialogue and your descriptions of their emotions will still feel somewhat cold and flat. At that point, you're just adding extra words for no reason, and it might actually have an adverse effect in that it will disengage readers. Before anyone writes about anyone or anypony else, please know that character.

I mean it.

I know some people like to shout down those character-building questionnaires you can find floating about, but I say do whatever you've gotta do to flesh that character out. I use them sometimes as a springboard to begin thinking on who I am writing about. With those initial questions answered, I can then delve much further by myself. This is KEY. What are your character's parents like? Siblings, friends? What did those individuals do that makes your character treat them the way they do? Why did they choose (or not) to live where they live? What do they hate about themselves? What do they love about themselves? What do they have nightmares about? How do they walk? How do they act when they feel threatened? What does their hair smell like? What's their favorite food? Why is it their favorite food? What memory haunts them? Do they work with their hands (hooves, etc.)? What do their hands (hooves, etc.) look like as a result? Do they look bad? What does your character do because their hands (hooves, etc.) look bad? Etc., etc. KNOW IT. Even if you don't think it will matter to your story, KNOW IT. You're creating a living, feeling entity upon a page. Not some rigid plank of wood guy thing.

I mean, unless your character is a rigid plank of wood guy thing.

Trust me. If you can answer all of those questions, you will keep the answers in mind as you write, and your character will benefit from that knowledge alone. You will find that you automatically write them bigger, realer, richer, and warmer than you could if you did not know the answer to those questions.

God, I'm no good at wrapping things up. I suppose I should do a tldr; jotlist:

1) Write exactly what your character is thinking and feeling along with what they are doing if and when you can. This will help readers to associate themselves with the character more.

2) (This is really only applied to first-person narrative): Describe thoughts and feelings in the character's voice with the character's mannerisms. It makes the moment read less flat.

3) Know every single little thing possible about your character before you write them. You will automatically write a more rich and relatable character and a world that interacts with them accordingly if you do.

Umm... That's all I got. I hope this was useful to somepony out there! Let me know if my uninhibited rambling has helped you! :heart:

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Comments ( 2 )

I'll consider this advice when I am writing my SunDagio fic. :raritywink:

3731201 Great! Glad you found it interesting.

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