Triplepeak – part 7

(Find part 6 here.)

The grand hall filled Chase with dread as he crossed it with the kid in tow. He didn‘t look at the floor, the artfully decorated two-square-feet tiles, or the paintings that hung in viewing height and created a border from door to stairway on both sides of the room.

His large frame was squared and tense, shoulders set back and chin up. He was going to face some serious music this time.

He glanced at the kid as he reached the wide staircase straight across the room from the door. He only hesitated a second, only looked at her long enough to frown, but her image was burnt into his mind. He knew what the council would decide on, and that it was his fault. With a few muttered curses under his breath he started climbing the spiral stairs, one hand locked around a thin wrist.

He let go of her when they were half way up and slowed down a little. Not much, just so she‘d have any breath left when they reached the top floor. He saw her rub her wrist but she didn‘t complain. Maybe she felt the weight in the atmosphere. The finality.

The walls started creeping in as they neared the top, ending close enough to the stairs to easily cause claustrophobia. When the couple finished the hike, Chase‘s shoulders were touching the walls on both sides. This was for security reasons, of course. An entrance like this was easily guarded and there was no other way in or out.

Follow me, Chase said quietly and meant for it to sound commanding but it came out like a plea. Damn nerves, he thought and mentally kicked himself. He couldn‘t afford any mistakes now. He had to stay cool and composed.

He stopped a couple of steps from the tall archway into the front room where they‘d wait for an audience with the council. He should tell her what to expect.

“I, uh…” He started and cleared his throat when his voice sounded cracked and insecure. Well, to be fair it probably sounded just as grumpy as always to others, but he cleared his throat anyway.

“There are laws”, he started again, not sure how much to explain. “No one from the outside is supposed to know how to get to the city, or to see it.”

He looked her directly in the eyes now, hesitating a moment when her grin faded. He focused on her hands until she tucked them in her pockets and then looked her in the eye again, the whole thing taking only seconds.

“What they do”, he said and then corrected himself, “what we do, is execute the outsider”. She didn‘t break eye contact when he growled the last words, but she flinched. Of course she did, who wouldn‘t? Someone from outside these walls wouldn‘t understand the meaning of their secrecy. The way of life depending on it.

“There hasn‘t been an outsider for over twenty years, though. So we‘ll see what they…” He stopped without finishing and frowned. She probably didn‘t believe they‘d kill her, so why give her reason to wonder? Might as well let her discover the severity of the situation herself.

He ran his hand through his hair, leaving it even more tousled, and turned to enter the front hall. He heard her follow… Not going to admit to feeling her follow, that was for sure… And headed for a plush-clad bench near the double doors to the council chambers. They had barely sat down when one  of the guards standing on each side of the door leaned his head a little down and to the side, held a hand to his ear and then looked at them.

“They are ready to see you now.”

His partner immediately stepped forth, pushed the door open and waited for them to enter.

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Twitter Poem Test Run

Yesterday I tweeted a request for words, lines or names to use as inspiration for a piece of fiction, a poem or a micro-story. Tweets rained onto my TweetDeck… but only one related to mine ;) So, thanks to Gary Murning for playing!

Pernickety. British English, informal.
Worrying too much about small and unimportant things [= fussy]
(Longman dictionary of contemporary English)

_______________________________________________

Sitting there,
staring at me.

Long crooked feet and arms,
stretching out like
he owns the place.

His hair is gray, a little,
mostly black.
Sitting there,
staring at me.

I could reach out and
make him go away,
disappear.

I’d have to touch him to do that, though.
And move.
It would attract attention.
Then everyone would see him:
Sitting there,
staring at me.

Maybe use the handbag?
Swing it casually,
hit him just hard enough so he
moves away.

No one would notice.
No. He might grab the handbag,
sit on it.

I will wait.

He might rub off my hem when I
get up and walk out of church with
the crowd.

Some other poor woman will
have to worry about him then.

Today, of all days.
At church, of all places.

Fluff.

Character Creation and Development: Patterns

Photo credit: brooke• via Flickr.com

How do you distinguish one character from another in your story? Do you actively seek to maintain that difference, or do they all blend into a half-this-half-that narrative voice? Do they all react similarly to what you throw at them, no matter who they are and how they‘re supposed to approach life?

These are important questions for every fiction writer to address, and return to regularly.

When giving our characters life and then following them through a plot, there are two things we can monitor to make sure they are true to themselves: Dialogue and physical actions and reactions.
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Dialogue

Each person has a unique pattern of speech. This is a fact. We use some words more than others, we use certain phrases, certain structure… Some of us tell a story in one short sentence that others might tell in a five minute speech. This makes us easily recognized in a room full of people, at least to those who know us.

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It all begins with voice

Identifying your characters’ speech pattern is similar to finding your writing voice. I’d advise you to go dig into a few articles on the topic and see what exercises and tips they offer. My personal favorite is over at Men with Pens: “How to find your writing voice“.

When familiar with the concept, or if you are already, apply the knowledge to your character development. Give your heroes voices you feel match the personality you already mapped out and developed to some extent.

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To each his own

The first round of voice-casting is easy. You might want your character to sound uptight, young or old, naive, uneducated or snobbish… General terms are easily applied and that‘s a good start, but you’ll want to take it a step further.

Give each character some character! Your snob might over-use “rather” and tend to start every story with “when we were at the summer house recently…”  Your eager twenty-something student might fit “dude” into every other sentence and misuse some common phrase…

You catch my drift. Dialogue is often a major part of fiction and we want our readers to feel the diversity of our characters through that obvious medium.

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Physical action & reaction

Just like with dialogue, physical actions follow a pattern. Each person tends to blush under similar circumstances, laugh at similar things and go through a spike in blood-pressure during similar experiences. Sometimes we do this unconsciously, sometimes knowingly. Your characters are no exception, or shouldn’t be.

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Stop cracking your knuckles!

Little habits and quirks go easily unnoticed until we focus on them. If you’d study someone’s movement and reaction to situations, people, words… You’d soon see how he scratches his beard a lot when he’s thinking, his foot is constantly on the move when he’s bored and he’s much more comfortable with man-to-man touch when watching football…

These little things pile up and form a living breathing person you can easily write realistically, and in a way that registers to your readers. (I bet you already pictured that guy I described!)

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It‘s in the details

Focus on what makes each of your characters unique. It doesn’t have to be a major thing, it might be as trivial as wrinkling his nose when things smell bad, just make sure you have a little (or a lot) that defines them.

Your readers love to feel like they know your characters, and with every quirk you put out there you give them something to build on. Just make sure you don’t go over the top and create a character that is nothing BUT nervous habits.

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Following the patterns

As you write your story and your characters develop into multidimensional people, practically leaping off the page, take some time to re-visit those original thoughts. Your characters might grow out of some habits and adopt new ones, but over all they should be consistent.

The same goes for their voice. Their dialogue style might change a little through the course of the story, but they should be recognizable as the same person. Right?

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To make it easy

Create a little list of identifying patterns for each character, put it with your other character notes. Use examples, such as: “angry = bites lower lip, says “okay” a lot, doesn’t make eye-contact”. Then, when you need to check on how you’re doing, you consult the list. It’s also a very convenient tool to use when writing new scenes.

What you get from doing this, thinking about this, is a clear sense of difference and identity amongst your characters. You become aware of the nuances that shape your written dialogue and relationships. You find fresh angles and points of view by understanding your heroes better.

Isn’t that what we‘re going for?

Light in its Natural Habitat

ABC poem.

Another day has begun,
brighter than the one before.
Cool breeze whispers on my window,
dew glitters on the grass.

Everything seems easier now.

Finally.

Giddy as a child, I
head for the woods.
In a day like this,
Jesus is in the trees…

Kidding, kidding!

Let us find peace amongst those branches,
moss-covered trunks and the little flowers.
No light is as fragile as
on the leaves and the
petals of those flowers.

Quiet and calm, but still bursting with life.
Riveting,
somehow.

Take this day as it comes, it will.
Under every sky is a
vulnerable flower and a
witty companion to take you to it.

X many mornings from now,
you will find yourself exploring the
zoological existence of light, in its natural habitat.

Go on.

Dragging her feet
making her way towards whatever she
has to face that day.

Eyes glazed and gray
hair tangled as if soaked and woven
everything is slow.

Maybe she cares
but now that she’s over the first hindrance
she doesn’t listen.

Hands in her pockets
as if digging for lost treasures in there
not that she’d find any.

Dragging her feet
postponing the soon-needed decision
because of that truth.

Shut up Songbird

I’ve stayed for too long
my voice is turning harsh and unforgiving.
My words don’t sound like songs anymore.
I should know better by now, after all this time,
but I couldn’t let go when the melody caught me.

I’ve stayed for too long
I can’t believe my head isn’t empty yet.
The trouble with constantly creating,
within my head or on paper slash keyboard,
is how to not.

I’ve stayed for too long
my voice is drained of all it’s juices.
I shouldn’t utter another word but
I keep singing, humming, pretending that’s not
doing any damage.

I’ve stayed for too long
the same way I always have and
probably always will.
Selfdestructive actions are,
after all,
what being an artist is all about?

Shut up, songbird.

Triplepeak – part 6

(Find Part 5 here.)

Dani admired the view, the surroundings, while they rode towards the city. Once they were threading the streets the sparkling white buildings revealed details of fine cracks and chipped surface, as well as painted murals depicting what Dani assumed to be the city´s history.

The images were like beacons, each one a guiding point towards the council, she realized as they drew nearer. Chase had pointed out a specific tower before they passed through the city gates. Continue reading

Top 5 Things for (extremely) Shy Writers to Think About When Introducing Themselves and Their Work to Strangers.

I´ve always found it easy to talk and introduce myself to strangers, be it a single person or a room full of people. I realise that´s not the case for everybody and, as bravely posted on Writer´s Round-About, some people find it extremely hard if not terrifying. This can be a real problem for us writers, fiction and professional ones alike. For those of you who know what I´m talking about, here are a few bits of advice from yours truly.  

1. MIND YOUR MANNERS

This may seem silly. Why would I need to bring that up? Isn´t it pretty much given? Yes. Yes it is. The thing is, manners don´t mean the same thing for everybody, in every situation. When nerves are added to the equation, things might end up a catastrophe.

What I know I don´t need to tell you is: be polite. Of course you are. What I might have to remind you of is: don´t be too polite. What you have to offer, what you want to bring into this person´s life, is more than fits in a line of “hello, how do you do, very nice to meet you”. Introducing life-changing products, as I´m sure you and your writing are, takes more dramatic measures.

I´m not talking about dancing on tables. I´m talking about what good manners tell you to include in your introduction. Continue reading