5 Motivations For Your Character to Cross the Road

September 17, 2010 at 5:25 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

We all know our characters actions need to be guided by some sort of motivation. A character that simply reacts gets frustrating, and characters that have no logical consistency are usually unbelievable. So here’s the question for your character. Why would they cross a road?

My 5 suggestions:

1. Greed – They realised that by crossing the road there was something in it for them. Either something waiting for them or something to be gained. Either way, greed is a powerful motivator and most characters would cross a road for it (some would cross deserts, mountains, or outer space for it).

2. Love – Isn’t that sweet? Their true love is on the other side or they will prove their love by crossing. Doesn’t matter, either way, love is a powerful motivator.

3. Loss – Someone who has lost their way or lost a love one may cross the road just wondering whether the other side offers them anything to take away the pain. Or they may have made a promise to someone who is now gone and crossing the road will help them keep it.

4. Curiosity – Not such a good motivator because usually it is used when there is no good reason for characters to act in a certain way and so they ‘just want to see’ something. Still, if you’ve established your character as someone who likes to stick their nose into other people’s business you can probably make curiosity work.

5. The next logical step – If your character is on route somewhere then crossing the road might simply be the next logical step on their journey.

The point being here that characters need a reason to do things and as long as you, the writer, are clear about why they are doing something and it makes sense to the audience, everyone will end up happy. We usually don’t wonder why our characters cross roads but the same could be said of opening a door, running up a flight of stairs, taking that trip somewhere, or any of the other decisions our characters have to make.

What is your answer? Why would your character cross the road?

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Guest blog with Alex J Cavanaugh

September 13, 2010 at 5:40 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Note from Cassandra: Thanks Alex for hosting me on your blog today and thanks for your guest post here on the realm. I hope everyone enjoys reading your thoughts.

In Tune with Writing

Every writer needs inspiration. We can envision a great story, but if we’re not inspired as we write, it falls into the neglected pile of incomplete projects. How do we maintain motivation for our characters and scenes?

It’s no secret I’m a music lover. Music moves me on every level. It uplifts me when I feel down or depressed. Music channels my anger when rage threatens to get the better of me. Since music affects my mood, I decided to use that to my advantage when writing.

Every scene possesses a mood. An action scene contains tension. A tragic scene boasts angst. A love scene… well, that one’s obvious! But regardless of the moment, there’s atmosphere and mood in every scene we create.

This is where music comes into play. A soundtrack sets the tone in movie; the tempo dictates the pace and flow of emotion. It can do the same for our writing. I always listen to music when writing, selecting the best composition for each scene.

When I need to amp up the tension or focus on an action heavy scene, I select something heavy and fast. The rapid tempo conveys a sense of urgency and helps me to focus on a dire situation. The music magnifies the moment. I pour the resulting energy into my words, letting the rhythm carry the story. As an added bonus, I write faster as well.

For emotionally charged scenes and intense character interactions, I select music that fits the mood. It can be slow or fast, but it must stir the emotions. The feelings provoked by the music help me channel a character’s frustration, despair, or jubilation into coherent phrases and words. I connect on a more personal level with my characters, adding depth to their personalities.

Music allows me to feel what I am writing. It places me in the scene and inside my characters’ heads. If you’re seeking inspiration or connection with your work, try music. It helps me stay in tune with my writing!

Alex J. Cavanaugh
Website: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/

Note from Cassandra: By the way, if you don’t know, Alex’s first book is going to be released in October. Check out the details and the trailer here.

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What Began As A Rant

September 11, 2010 at 5:44 am (From the Book Shelf, September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I actually did have a post planned for today just before I jump into a fairly extended stretch on my blog tour. Incidentally the next five days I will be bouncing all around the place and I hope you will come with me to some amazing blogs (links below). However, I re-read my post and realised that what had begun as a discussion about why I had been disappointed by a trilogy I recently gave up reading had actually degenerated into a rant and I decided to scrap it and try again.

Here is my second attempt.

I recently began reading a trilogy of YA fantasy books and was instantly hooked by the first book. There was this interesting (if a little generic) female protagonist who did some reasonably unexpected things and over the course of the first book I came to really want her to succeed in her goals. The villains were a bit on the melodramatic side and their scheme was clearly delusional and set to fail before it began but you can forgive that in YA because overblown villains are the norm and when stupid people reach for the moon, of course they fail. The story was enjoyable and the side characters well fleshed out.

Enter book two and we see our heroine in a new location only now she’s less interesting because she has nothing left to reveal and this time the actual complication of the story isn’t introduced until half-way through because they are so busy trying to get us to see the protagonist in the new location. Instead of some dark past haunting her every step, we now have petty annoyances and domestic squabbles that fill in time until somehow there just happens to be a serial killer stalking around in her new home and somehow she just happens to be the one who is going to solve everyone’s troubles. Not that she isn’t out of her depth and completely lost and with no actual reason to involve herself at all. In point of fact, the author spends a bit of time trying to convince us that she becomes emotionally attached to one of the almost victims, but this doesn’t really sit right with the protagonists character and ends up just being a plot pointer.

By book three, I was more or less over the protagonist. However, in the grand tradition of trilogies, the danger is now upped to the point where it is so overblown and melodramatic that you fully expect the sky to darken at any minute. And yet, I just didn’t care. The characters of the first book were now mostly too far removed because they had all but been completely absent (other than a tokenistic appearance) in the second. The characters of the second book hadn’t endeared themselves to me at all. And the third book seemed determined to rush us into a complication that made very little sense as fast as possible.

I’m going to point out at this stage that I didn’t finish reading the trilogy. I made it half-way through the third book and then realised I was hoping that mysterious, overblown, master-mind villain guy would just wipe them all out and call it a day. At that point I realised that I’d completely disengaged from the story and there was no point in my finishing it.

The point of this was my wondering where it all went wrong. The first book won me over. I loved it. I was totally hooked into this world and these characters. In all honesty, I think it was the big shift in scenery that lost me. I loved the world that was created in the first book, but in the second we were in an entirely different setting and I didn’t really feel it. I missed too much of the first setting. Perhaps that is a petty quibble but as a reader it threw me.

So my question to the readers out there is this: How long will you read when you know you have disengaged? Do you give up straight away, or do you plow on and hope for a big finish?

Tomorrow Laura Diamond is sharing a post here on the realm and I am off to her blog to talk about females in fantasy writing.

After that I am visiting Alex J Cavanaugh on the 13th, Mason Canyon on the 14th, Carol Kilgore on the 15th and Susan Whitfield on the 16th. Hope to see you on the tour.

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Foreshadowing

August 12, 2010 at 5:30 am (Plot, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Foreshadowing is something I haven’t really written about on the blog before but it is incredibly important when it comes to writing a cohesive story. I have to thank Hart Johnson on Confessions of  a Watery Tart for reminding me why it is so important in story writing.

She actually uses a very good explanation of one of the stronger parts of the Harry Potter series in that very little just appears as it is needed. The polyjuice potion is mentioned well in advance of it ever being used and so as a reader you aren’t left thinking – this author got herself stuck and then had to magic her way out of it. Yes the mention was deliberate because you knew they were going to use it later but it still made the whole story stronger. And it was the same with many other items and events within the Harry Potter series. By being prementioned and then gently reminding the reader at certain points, by the time the event or object become critical to the story it was like it was there all along and it doesn’t feel like a quick fix.

The best way to explain why foreshadowing is important is probably to look at what happens without it. The scenario is where your hero is backed up against a wall with thirty villains closing in, all armed to the teeth with more weapons than I could name, there is a bomb about to explode, a damsel in distress hanging from a helicopter two blocks away screaming for assistance and a tidal wave is closing in. Okay, I erred on the side of melodrama when writing that scenario.

Suddenly your hero…

Anything you end this sentence with is going to sound lame unless it was previously set up. This situation is clearly impossible. There is no way your hero can get out of it and save the victim, and disarm the bomb and stop the tidal wave. Unless they are superman which leads us to the question of how did he get into this situation in the first place.

Are you suddenly going to whip out a magic make everything offensive go away potion?

However, if you had thought about this scenario and gone back earlier in your story and tweaked a few things it is quite likely that the hero’s side kick is currently trying to disarm the bomb, and sweating profusely while doing it, and the hero is in point of fact simply keeping the villains busy. But he’s doing it by projecting a hologram (using technology that was of course demonstrated far earlier in the story) and he is actually cutting the victim off the helicopter. What you’re going to do about the tidal wave is anyone’s guess unless the hero is planning to use the bomb, retrieved by the side kick, to somehow interrupt it (which seems pretty unlikely to me).

Foreshadowing: possibly making the impossible slightly more plausible.

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The Sycophant

August 4, 2010 at 5:47 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve jumped works in progress for the time. I wasn’t making progress on one draft and I wanted to write so I decided to have a look at an earlier abandoned project (rather than starting yet another never to be finished project). Interestingly, even though I abandoned the project because I felt it was too flat, reading it after having a fairly lengthy space, I was drawn in to the story and the characters again and when I got to where I’d abandoned the project I was disappointed that the story didn’t finish.

So working between project I am now trying to reacquaint myself with some of my earlier character creations and it is amazing how fast they come back (all giving me dirty looks and muttering about being cast aside).

One of the characters I particularly enjoyed reading about again and getting to know all over again is the sycophant. This isn’t actually his name though it may as well be. It is what he is called by pretty much all the other characters and even though he is only a minor character in the story, he manages pretty effectively to be despised in the most amusing of ways.

I’d clearly also used the thesaurus when writing the draft originally because I noticed I was very careful not to endlessly repeat the word sycophant, even though I really enjoy that word. It rolls right off the tongue and always gives just the right amount of contempt and loathing.

Anyway – alternatives to sycophant:

  • toady
  • appeaser
  • crawler
  • flatterer
  • follower
  • greaser
  • hanger-on
  • parasite

All of them very flattering words.

Incidentally, when introducing the character I don’t tell the reader that he is a sycophant. I have one of my other characters call him one within the first few lines of him entering the story and then back it up by having him carry out some very toady like actions. His character is established and I haven’t once said to the reader (by the way, you’re meant to dislike this character).

I’ve since also moved on from this project but I think the time will come very soon when I’m going to have to finish this one.

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I write like…

July 29, 2010 at 5:35 am (Thoughts on Writing, Voice) (, , , , , , , , , )

I finally gave in and tried this though not with an open mind and I have to admit my thoughts about this were well justified. Using the prologue from a work-in-progress I fed in various paragraphs and samples into the I Write Like site and according to it’s analysis I write like:

First 200 words: Raymond Chandler (which is an insane comparison)

Next 150 words: Douglas Adams (which is flattering but really quite untrue)

Next 150 words: Cory Doctorow (hadn’t heard of him before and had to google him to find out, no idea what his writing style is)

Next 200 words: Dan Brown (now it is just being mean to me)

Final 100 words: Stephen King (again flattering but untrue).

Now how in one prologue of just over 700 words did I manage to be that schizophrenic? And how can you possibly write like Douglas Adams and Dan Brown and Stephen King and Raymond Chandler all in one cohesive text. In case they hadn’t noticed, they have very different writing styles. extremely different. As in, if they were ant colonies they would devour one another different.

I went into this sceptical about it having any accuracy. I assumed it would make some generic assumption about your writing and spit out the name of someone famous to keep you happy and you would tweet it once, the end. What I didn’t expect was that pieces of the same text would come back with such incredibly different results which makes you wonder what exactly it is looking for in the text.

So I dropped the entire 700 words in and it came back with Cory Doctorow. But if I put the first 350 in it comes back with Raymond Chandler and the final 350 come back as Dan Brown. There doesn’t appear to be any underlying logic here.

Did this give me any insight into my writing? Not really. I’m trying to imagine Dan Brown interjecting into the middle of one of Douglas Adams’ novels and I must say it is an amusing thought but that’s about as far as it goes.

Who do I write like? I write like me and that’s all I can do.

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September Blog Tour

July 28, 2010 at 5:18 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , )

It is official. I am going to be doing a blog tour in September. I’d like to thank all of those people who have already offered to host me during the month however I still have empty spaces in my schedule that I am trying to fill.

To that end I am reaching out and asking for blog owners who wouldn’t mind hosting me to let me know in the comments here so I can contact you. Or you can email me (cassandra dot jade dot author at gmail dot com).

While I am doing this blog tour I am looking for people who would like to guest blog on Cassandra Jade in the Realm. So if you are a writer, reader, reviewer, whatever, and are interested in writing a guest post for this blog during September, please let me know.

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Politics in Fantasy

July 25, 2010 at 6:04 am (Plot, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have this story outline I’ve been kicking around forever and I have always wanted to write it. Yet every time I’m between projects or looking for something new I have chosen not to begin this particular project.

There may be a very good reason.

Essentially the story is a political thriller but set between two governments that don’t actually exist in a world that also doesn’t exist. See, I’ve always been interested in politics and diplomacy and this story kind of evolved out of that. It really is a guide on how not to be diplomatic and yet still not cause a war. The focus is on two characters that represent opposing governments but each have their own agenda independent of their respective governments.

The reason I don’t think I’m ever going to write this story is because I can’t think of anyone who would want to read it. The sheer number of people that don’t like real politics kind of convinces me that finding out about fictional politics wouldn’t really work for most people. And while other authors have used fictional governments as the scene to make social commentary, that isn’t what I would be intending. The story would simply be about the characters and there would be no social statement.

I have to wonder how many ideas are out there floating around that won’t ever see fruition because their owner decides they just don’t fit their current needs.

Do you have an idea you’ve sent to limbo?

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Bringing Fantasy to Life

July 21, 2010 at 6:36 am (Character, fantasy, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I was visiting Elizabeth Spann Craig’s very amazing blog when she posted a list of links that she’d posted on twitter. One of the many links that caught my eye was a link to the blog Novel Journey where Robert Liparulo was sharing his 5 tips for making fantasy fiction feel real. As an avid reader of fantasy fiction and a writer of it, I found this a fascinating read.

More importantly, his number one tip, I thought was possibly the best bit of advice that could be given on this topic. So, his number one tip for making fantasy feel real:

Characters who feel. The way to a reader’s heart is through a story’s characters. Doesn’t matter if they’re fighting dragons or stepping into the Roman Colosseum during a gladiator fight, a character has to experience fear and courage, love and heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears—all of it realistically rendered in a way the reader understands.

As I said, I’ve read a lot of fantasy and as a reader I know this to be true. The world can be beautifully structured and described but unless the characters feel real the story just isn’t going to work. And it is the way that characters react to situations that make them feel real. Stories where the characters shrug off weird thing after weird thing are really hard to connect to because you want the character to look closer at something and they don’t, and you want them to ask the right question, and they won’t. It makes it hard as a reader to really get into the story.

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing this link and thanks to Robert Liparulo for sharing some great advice with us all.

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More From Twitter

July 19, 2010 at 5:29 am (Death's Daughter, Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Another round up of exciting links that I have found in the last little bit. I do post these on twitter as I find them and I hope that people are finding them useful. Yes, my links are scattered through them.

My must-read recommendations go to the following:

Very cool book trailer for CassaStar – check it out: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/2010/07/book-trailer-for-cassastar.html

Cat Woods sharing seven deadly sins for writers: http://catwoods.wordpress.com/

If you have the time check out this review of Death’s Daughter:

The Rhapsodist reviews Death’s Daughter: http://alexwillging.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/cassandra_jade/

Here are the other great reads I’ve found recently:

Sybil Nelson – 8 steps to a great book trailer: http://journeysinink.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/eight-steps-to-a-great-book-trailer/

Lua Fowles – writer in a mask: http://abrokenlaptop.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/be-mysterious-writers-in-masks-features-lua-fowles/

Helen Ginger – on using Networked Blogs: http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/2010/07/giant-head.html

An award for my blog: https://cassandrajade.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/resolution/

Susan Whitfield – Interview with Tim Marquitz: http://susanwhitfield.blogspot.com/2010/07/tim-marquitz.html

Sylvia Dickey Smith – http://sylviadickeysmithbooks.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/guidelines-for-a-writers-critique-group/

Janice Hardy – trends in writing: http://storyflip.blogspot.com/2010/07/being-trendy.html

What women write – finding your writing rhythm: http://whatwomenwritetx.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-do-you-need.html

Eric – The importance of the little things (character) http://workingmymuse.blogspot.com/2010/07/little-things.html

Robert Liparulo: making fantasy feel real: http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2010/06/5-elements-that-make-fantasy-fiction.html

Elspeth Antonelli – ten things to do before you write: http://elspeth-itsamystery.blogspot.com/2010/06/before-you-write.html

Madison Woods – getting answers from twitter: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/another-reason-i-love-twitter/

Some interesting tips of spelling: http://manuscriptedit.wordpress.com/

Elizabeth Spann Craig – excellent list of links for writers: http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/2010/07/top-retweets.html

Stephen Tremp – moving along on his writer’s journey: http://stephentremp.blogspot.com/

Mason Canyon – A question for authors and soon to be authors: http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/2010/07/do-i-ask-or-not.html

Jeaniene Frost – Why women find vampires hot: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/30/why.women.love.vampires/index.html?fbid=oF8F5aXpTib

Bibliophile Stalker – Some great links for writers: http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-14-2010-links-and-plugs.html

Cat Woods – Sentence variation http://catwoods.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/improve-flow-with-sentence-variation/

Carol Kilgore – Try something new: http://underthetikihut.blogspot.com/2010/07/lab-experiment.html Must read for #writers.

Lee Robertson – Murky Middles: http://writerleerobertson.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/murky-middles/ Got lost in the middle of your story?

Vivienne Tuffnell – Would you write full time? http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/guest-post-vivienne-tuffnell/

Lua shares her thoughts on World Building: http://likeabowloforanges.wordpress.com/

Fantasy e-book Death’s Daughter: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_19&products_id=227

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