Very Young Writers: What Characters Do

Hello again, VYWs (and all other writers)!

This is totally unrelated, but  do you remember Ship’s Log by Brandis, that little Alen’s War fanfic I wrote (except it’s canon because I wrote it and I’m the author)? Well, school is done, and I finally wrote part two on Figment. Go check it out.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about characters. You probably know by now that I like ranting about what makes a good or bad character, but writers rarely talk about the basics. However, the question is worth asking: what jobs should characters do in a story?

That depends on many things. Characterization has a lot of sub-categories and requirements, and not every character adheres to every one of those requirements (after all, sometimes we break the rules).  There is so much more to writing characters than I can put down here… but it can be simplified. You can find a few components in almost every single character ever written, and those components just depend on what role the character plays in the story. For now, let’s look at the two most basic roles: the protagonist and the antagonist.

The Protagonist (usually, the good guy)

The protagonist is the main character (who is probably also the hero and your viewpoint character). A protagonist should do three things:

  1. Be likeable
  2. Work to reach a goal
  3. Have a “eureka!” moment where they discover the truth

Now for some explanation. Being likeable just means that readers have to like the character; otherwise, they won’t stick around to see what happens to him. A good example is Gru from Despicable Me (who isn’t actually a good guy!). He may be a cruel, mastermind-y sort, but he’s likeable because he wants to prove himself to his mom and, later, to his little girls. That’s something with which we can all identify.

Having a goal means that the protagonist doesn’t sit around and do nothing, but stands up and tries to get the thing that she wants. For example, Heidi (of Heidi fame, obviously) has one goal: to make people’s lives better, and she works toward it no matter where she is. She makes friends of the goatherd Peter, encourages Clara to learn to walk, and brings her grandfather back to God. As a reward for working toward her goal, Heidi ends up with a group of lifelong friends.

The “eureka” moment is a scene that happens somewhere between the middle and the ending of the story, when the protagonist has to realize the truth she has been missing all this time. Rapunzel from Tangled is a good example. She thinks her dream was to discover what the real world is like, but at last she realizes that she was really searching for her true family all along. And she finds it, with the king and queen and with Flynn/Eugene.

Antagonist (usually, the bad guy)

An antagonist, usually a villain, has a few different requirements:

  1. Be understandable
  2. Cause trouble for the protagonist
  3. Be a different version of the protagonist

Being understandable means that while we don’t necessarily have to like the bad guy (although likeable bad guys are fun too), we should understand why he does what he does. For example, nobody actually likes the Elvenking from The Hobbit book. He’s generally nasty and not very helpful to Thorin and Company. But we do understand why the Elvenking wants Thorin’s gold: he thinks that the dwarves of the Mountain had stolen some gems from him, and he wants them back.

Causing trouble means that the antagonist’s goal is totally opposed to the protagonist’s. For example, in the movie Brave, Queen Elinor (who is an antagonist, but not really a bad guy) wants Merida to marry into one of the clans to preserve peace. That’s opposite to what Merida wants, namely, to stay single and let her hair flow in the wind as she rides through the glen firing arrows into the sunset. (Did you see what I did there??) Neither of those goals is absolutely wrong or absolutely right, but they are completely opposite to each other. This is what causes the conflict.

Being a different version of the protagonist means that the antagonist should be like the hero in some way, only gone wrong. This is a little harder to do, but it adds depth to a story. Star Wars is a spectacular example. Luke and Anakin both have the chance to be the Chosen One, the one who would restore balance to the Force. They both save the galaxy multiple times, they both train as Jedi with Obi-Wan/Ben Kenobi… they even use the same lightsaber. But Anakin chooses the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader, while Luke chooses to do the right thing. Same character type, different decisions- like two sides of a coin.

So that sums it up.

There are many more ways to characterize the protagonist and antagonist (like backstory ghosts, character moments, and quirks) and many more kinds of characters (like antiheroes, impact characters, and love interests), and obviously I can’t list them all here. But the protagonist and antagonist are a good start. Characterization is complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Ultimately, your characters should seem real enough for the reader to go on the journey with them, and if these lists of three components help you do that, awesome.

Now get back to writing!

Free Books? Indie eCon 2017 Book Awards

Just a friendly reminder that my book Alen’s War is free for the next five days!

All this thanks to the Indie e-Con Book Awards. The best part of this contest is that, for the next week, all y’all fantastical readers can head over to Amazon and download any or all of the eligible books (some for free, others for 99¢) and dive into the literary adventures. Then, on the 18th, you can vote for your favorite books in different genres. Click this button to visit the official e-Con page for details- it’s all on the site!

Oh, and did I mention that you should attend the e-Con on March 20-24? Kendra E. Ardnek (remember her?) is hosting some brilliant indie authors to talk about a plethora of topics, like outlining and online marketing, and she’s also got some writing and fan-art contests going. It will be superb. At least, I’m expecting it will be; this is only my first year attending, too. So do click on the button and look around. Who knows? You may find something awesome.

By the way, if you enjoy my book, feel free to leave a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads so other bookworms can know how you liked it. A little indie secret: reviews aren’t always easy to get, and whenever you take the time to rate any book or leave a nice word about it, the author greatly appreciates it. At least, I know I do- so thank you!

Oh, and come back this Thursday during one of your reading breaks, because then we’ll be talking about a certain Star Wars Story.

Until then, happy reading!

And the ebooks go to…

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I’m just dropping in to let you know that the giveaway has ended, and we have a few winners– eight, to be exact. Congratulations to Olivia, Hailey, Rachel, Marrok, Raechel, Jennifer, Bailey, and Cory! (Whew.) You’ll be getting your ebooks within the next few days.

For those of you who didn’t win this time… no need to feel sad. You can still follow our blogs (there’s a list of them here!) for more bookish goodies and contests. And you’ll definitely want to follow me on Figment, because that’s where I’ll soon be posting journal entries from a certain raiding captain we all know and love… In the meantime, you can still visit the giveaway page to see the list. Be sure to congratulate those who won!

Congratulations and holiday cheers to all who entered; you are the best! See you next time.

He supports your love of champagne. | 31 Reasons We're Addicted To Benedict Cumberbatch

Kendra E. Ardnek // Author Interview & Giveaway

Remember how I told you a big ebook giveaway this month? Do you also remember how I said we would be swapping interviews? Well, I am here to fulfill the latter promise. Say hello to Kendra E. Ardnek, the fantasy author who gave us Water Princess, Fire Prince.

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Tell us a bit about the origin story of Water Princess, Fire Prince. Why did you want to write this book in particular?

The story came to me in the shower. I was trifle upset with my life at the time, and a trifle too obsessed with Narnia, so I was making myself escape doors all over the place. So, it was the most natural thing that, one evening, the thought, “Hey, it’d be awesome if I’d just close my eyes and end up under a waterfall in another world.” And unlike the other stories that I messed around with at the time, this one just stayed with me, and I eventually made it part of my Rizkaland Legends. Why this story? Because it had the most straightforward plot of all of the Legends that I’d planned up to that point, and the most contained cast, so I figured it’d be a good starting point for the series.

Of course all of an author’s characters get a little piece of him or her, but do you have one character who is remarkably like you?

There are three characters in the book who, at one point or another, were me. Clara, the titular Water Princess; Amber, the villainous Lady Dragon; and Laura, the Doorkeeper. Way back when the story first came to me, I was the one who went to the other world, but I eventually let Clara replace me. She retains much of my personality and weird logic, though she’s far more athletic and schedule-oriented than I am. The Rizkaland Legends themselves began life as a series of plays, and in them I was going to play Amber, because we were short on actors, and we’d realized that my other character, Petra, didn’t share any actual scenes with the villain. She retains my hair and one of my weaknesses. Finally, Laura. Laura is based on a character that I had retired, Sandra Elizabeth Nedor, who was going to be my penname. Laura probably retains the most of me – personality, weird logic, wanderlust, though she’s a much sadder version of me.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? What was most enjoyable?

Ooh, I don’t know. I’d say that the hardest part was Andrew, because he was my first male character that I really worked with and developed, and Clara was the most enjoyable, because I love her wit.

What’s the nicest thing a reader has told you about your book- be it in a review or elsewhere?

I’ve had several people tell me that the world that I created is one of the most unique that they’d ever read, and I consider that to be a high compliment. I love worldbuilding, and I’ve poured years of work into Rizkaland.

It’s been a raging debate for years: as a Christian writer, how do you handle magic in your stories?

Here’s how I look at it – how did Jesus draw a crowd? He performed miracles and told stories. There’s something in every human being that thirsts for the supernatural. I can’t perform miracles, but I can tell stories, and I can tell stories that have the supernatural in them. I don’t take a good vs. evil approach to magic, though, instead I use what I call the “natural” system. Natural magic, which is part of the natural rules of a world, but are simply different from our rules, or hard to explain. Supernatural magic, which is power from God, ie, miracles. And, finally, Unnatural magic, which is the power that Satan tempts people with. Unnatural magic is usually a twisted version of Supernatural or Natural, since Satan has no power save that he was given.

If you were to write in another genre besides fantasy, what would you pick?

I’ve dabbled in science fiction, though it’s a rather fantastical version of sci-fi, and last month, for NaNo, I wrote a Superhero Dystopia. I’d also like to do some historical fiction, at some point. Fantasy is my comfort genre, though.

What writing project is next on the list?

I’m currently working on three. Poison Kiss, a Sleeping Beauty short story where the jilted fairy decided to use True Love’s Kiss to curse the princess, rather than the typical spinning wheel. Love and Memory, the third volume in the Rizkaland Legends. The Worth of a King, which is a sort of companion to the Rizkaland Legends – it’s an independant story,  but it is a chapter in Amber’s backstory, back before Amber became the Lady Dragon and turned evil.

Randomness: would you rather have a horse or a dragon for a pet?

One of my characters actually gave me my own dragon a couple years ago. Her name’s Sunset. I’m not really a horse person.

Big thank you to Kendra for visiting! Enter the giveaway and find her on social media:

Ebooks for Christmas: A Complimentary Giveaway

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Who’s ready for some free books?

Maybe you just happen to be looking for another book to read this winter. Perhaps you have a sister who really loves fantasy. It might even be that you’ve never read a book in your life and would like to try one to see what it’s like… who knows? Whatever your situation, you’ll be happy to know that I and some author friends of mine are giving away eight free eBooks this Christmas, and you have a chance of winning one of them.

Now for the rules! If you want to win one of these lovely thingies, choose one of the entry options and follow the instructions to gain a point. (Hint: you can enter with as many options as you like to increase your chances of winning.) The giveaway starts December 3rd and ends on the 20th, so you’ll have plenty of time to enter. We’ll pick eight winners at random and contact you before Christmas, so you can have your eBook delivered whenever you like.

In case you want to know what you’re winning… it just so happens that I have a list for all you merry folk. Click on the book to read about it on Amazon, and click on the author to see their awesome bookish blogs.

Now for the giveaway, which opens December 3rd and runs through the 20th. Enjoy the fun!

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And come back here over the next few weeks for author interviews and visits. I’ll be visiting some of these other bloggers and hosting them here to talk about books, writing problems, the caffeine content of chocolate… whatever it is, you won’t want to miss it.

As always, happy writing!