Your Love and Your Life

You wish things had ended differently. That she would have done more, that you could have done less. You just want things to have been different. 

You wouldn’t have said what you had said if you knew how things were going to go. Sure, you felt it, and she eventually said it back, but it wasn’t the same after that. 

To you, the words “I love You,” might as well be a knife to thé throat of your relationships. 

You kill all the beautiful things in your life and are left lost with the remains that no amount of resuscitation can breathe new life into. 

Maybe it’s better that way. 

Baggage

She hadn’t expected that she would feel so light after her trip. 

When he had called her after years of radio silence, begging to see her, she had expected the worst. What she had found when she had arrived back in New York was the best thing she could have hoped for. 

Her trip hadn’t been a round trip as she had planned. She smiled as she unpacked her suitcase, the clothes and the shoes, and placed them next to his things in the dresser. 

That was the last thing she expected. How easy it was to be close to him after years of nothing while they found themselves. 

“Babe,” his voice came from behind her as his hands wrapped around hers gently, the familiar scent of his cologne clouding her senses. “Unpacking can wait until tomorrow.” 

She couldn’t help but agree as his lips crashed against her neck, making her forget about their previous baggage entirely. 

Tuesday How To: Make the Conflict Match Your Characters

So you’re all set to start writing. You have your  favorite drink or snack on hand, you have the timer set for at least 10 minutes, ready to get down at least some words that sound semi smart in this writing session, and you have your characters all fleshed out and ready to go.

Or do you?

Part of being a writer is working with conflict and how it affects your characters. Every conflict should affect characters in some way, but certain conflicts will affect them more.

Take the difference between a trained fighter and a plumber. If you put the fighter into an MMA ring, he would have no problems understanding how to fight and possibly win against the other fighter. You put that plumber in the ring and now you have a conflict. Does the plumber know how to win against the other fighter or not?

There is your conflict. 

I like to think of conflict as “What is the worst possible thing that could happen to this character that they could possibly come out of and possibly be happy?” 

An example I’ll give you is from the series I am currently working on. The main character in book one, when his story starts, is a weakling who lets other people make most of his choices for him. In the relationship with his best friend, he is the weaker of the two, and he lets her run the show. When the shift happens, when his best friend can no longer make decisions, he has to step up and be the strong one in their relationship. This is part of his growth throughout the series, and it creates conflict later in the series when she starts to make choices for herself again.

The best way to make a conflict is to decide how far you want to push your characters. What they need to be pushed forward into their world and fight for what they need. 

A good rule of thumb is to use opposites. 

Let’s return to the plumber and the fighter for a few moments. Let’s say the plumber is a pacifist and is against fighting, but his wife and kids are kidnapped by someone. Pacifist plumber tries the nice route, going to where the villain is keeping his wife and kids, but he gets his ass handed to him by the hulk like bouncer. Now Mr. Plumber has a choice, which creates conflict.

Should he go against his ideals and train to kick the bouncer’s ass and save his family, or should he keep his ideals and try to deal with the villain another way?

Depending on what you, as the writer, choose, it could be two very different stories. 

How do you make your conflicts match your characters strengths and weaknesses?

How To Tuesday: Every Story Needs Conflict

We’ve all read stories where it seems like nothing is happening. Stories that are boring, or slow, or maybe the characters just aren’t working for us as readers. I find that most of the time when stories bore me, it’s because the conflict doesn’t resonate with me, or that there doesn’t seem to be a conflict, or high enough stakes for me to have an interest in the results. 

Every story needs to have some sort of conflict. 

Whether it’s the fact that your character can’t find the right shoes for their prom dress or the character has to diffuse a bomb before the timer goes off and he can’t tell what color word to cut because he’s colorblind. Your story needs a conflict, something to resolve for the story to feel complete. 

If you don’t have a conflict for your characters, it might as well be a story where everyone is happy and nothing bad ever happens. Even short stories need conflicts, something to move the plot forward and engage the reader and make them care about the characters and what happens to them. Even the simplest of things can become conflicts. 

The easiest way to come up with a conflict is to think of the word thing that could happen to your character and make it happen, but we will talk more about that next week. 

How To Tuesday: Female Characters

Over the past three weeks of How To Tuesdays concerning characters we have talked about how to find characters, how to name them, and how to develop characters. This week, is not necessarily a new How To, it is an addition to the rest of the information we have talked about.

This week, we are going to talk about female characters and how to write great female characters. For  a lot of people, this lesson will come as news, just because it’s one of those things that some writers do not realize until it is pointed out for you, and for others some of it might be obvious, but some of it might not be so obvious.

So without further ado: Writing Female Characters

Write Them as People

For as long as people have been writing characters, they have been writing women. The difference is the idea that women are people. Some writers write their female characters as stepping stones for their male characters or plot devices to move other characters forward. This is not the way to write female characters. They deserve to be people in your work and not just a plot device for your male characters. An example of what not to do is called the Sexy Lamp Test.

The Sexy Lamp Test is easy. If you can replace your female character with a lamp and the plot stays exactly the same with no changes, then you really should rewrite your female characters.

Another common theme is to write female characters as a plot advancement for your main character. The most common way that I have seen is to kill the female character, usually a mother or a lover that motivates the main male character to go after the villain or learn a new skill, etc.  This needs to stop in popular media, but it needs to be noticed by writers, readers and viewers first.

If you write your female characters as people, your work will shine, and you will avoid the usual cliches of female characters as cardboard cutouts.

Give Them Their Own Goals and Motivation

Just like any other character, your female characters need goals and motivation too. This will help a lot with making them feel like real people. Everyone has goals and motivation, whether it is something huge like to be a scientist, or a master shopper, or a small goal like wanting to wake up on time the next morning to not be late for work.

When you don’t give characters goals, whatever their gender, you create them as cardboard cutouts just revolving around a plot. However, there is an extra element to female characters if you leave out their goals and motivations. They become cardboard cutouts with sex appeal, and this is not necessarily what you want for your female characters.

Another issue about goals and motivations. Please don’t make your female characters only goal to get laid or be laid by the main character. Yes, it is a goal, but they should have more goals than to just be a sex object for the main character.

Give your characters goals and motivations and let them exist in your story not just for your main characters, but next to them.

Make Them Show Emotion and Change Throughout the Story

There is nothing worse than a character that does not react or change during the plot and action of a story. Whether they are male or female or anything in between, if they don’t change and react, then they might as well be a cardboard cutout or a lamp. This is especially important for female characters, because so often they are just there as plot devices and motivation for other characters.

Let your female characters react as people, let them show ugly emotions like anger and hate and let them react as real people would. Don’t keep them shiny and pretty, let them get dirty and downright ugly. Let them react and show them as you would a male character. Make them cry, or scream, or yell and be more than just sex appeal.

Make them change throughout their story, but make them change for the right reasons. If the only reason your character changes is because they get into a romantic relationship, then you need to examine your plot and try something new. This plot device is so overused, and so not the message we want to send to our young people. This is a common theme in teen romances that it needs to be corrected somehow. It starts with us, the next generation of writers and authors and creators.

Let your characters, whether male, female, or anything in between, be human and your writing will be the best it has ever been.

Happy Writing!