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Archive for August, 2015

It’s amazing how much good character development can change a storyline, whether it’s in a book or a TV series/movie. The problem is that good character development is often extremely difficult to write. I speak specifically regarding authors on this, though I’m sure the same can be said for television series.

I’ve been recently re-watching one of my favorite series of all time, Downton Abbey. I absolutely love this show, and I’d forgotten just how good the storyline was. I remember talking to my parents when I watched it through the first time, and describing how much I absolutely despised Thomas’s character. I had just finished season 1 and was secretly rooting for him to die horribly in season 2. My parents (having both seen up to season 3 by that point) cried out at the same time, “Not Thomas!”

thI couldn’t understand what on earth they were talking about – until I finally caught up to them and got through season 3 as well. Now, as we all impatiently wait for season 6 to arrive, I have to admit that they were right. Thomas is one of my absolute favorite characters. Naturally there are characters that I’ve simply loved since the first moment they showed up one screen (Anna and Mr. Bates! OMG!). But the events that have happened throughout the series have affected everyone, from the highest lord to the lowliest servant, and that’s part of what makes it such a phenomenal hit. The other part, I’m convinced, is because of the incredible character development. Every character has a background and a reason for being who they are. It’s beautifully written and wonderfully executed by the actors.

Characters can make or break a good book just as easily. Too many times I’ve seen series fizzle out after a couple of books because either the storyline has become mundane or the characters are flat. Your characters have to be real. They have to feel emotions and be relatable to the people reading about them. There has to be a reason for their actions and behaviors.

One of the best writing exercises that I’ve found for myself is to create a “meme” for my characters and give them profiles. (I’ve posted a few here on my blog, just for fun.) I have questions ranging from their favorite color to whether or not they have any family still living. What were their previous occupations? Do they have any fears/phobias? I’ve seen authors who have even made it look like the characters wrote the answers themselves.

Even if none of that information ever makes it into the book, it helps me to craft believable, three-dimensional characters. Yeah, sometimes it’s daunting to keep track of everything, particularly when you have multiple series, but keeping notes and creating these kinds of exercises helps create worlds and characters that readers can understand.

What are some of your strategies as a writer? How do you remember all of your characters and their histories?

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Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books where I was kicking myself for not reading this thing sooner. Seriously, why did I wait all this time? Holy crap. This book is AMAZING. As someone who adores dragons anyway, I loved how this spun a new take on them and told the story of a girl who loved music, cared for her family, and just so happened to be half-dragon.

I was immediately spellbound by the world Rachel Hartman created. Seraphina as a character is not without her flaws, but she is so relatable. She has genuine struggles, as she feels compassion for both species, and I loved how the dragons were depicted. Oh, and there was music! For me, Seraphina was the character that I had hoped Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles would be, and she did not disappoint on that end. I just adore it when I can have two of my passions woven together like this. So wonderful.

I lurve Orma and the relationship he had with Seraphina. He’s related to her by blood, yet as a dragon should not show any emotion. Some of the struggles he faced were so real, so difficult, just like Seraphina’s own dilemmas. You knew that he wanted to love her, but he couldn’t. Just as she could not help but feel love for Kiggs, though she knew it was futile and against her dragon nature. I kept wanting to yell, “JUST TELL HIM ALREADY! OMG!”

Oh, the feels. I just can’t praise this book highly enough. It is beautiful, heart-breaking and perfect in every way, shape and form.

Seriously, go read it now.

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IMG_1702One of the awesome things that we got to do in Glacier National Park is go white-water rafting. It was a bit of an adventure for a couple of reasons: #1.) I hadn’t gone white-water rafting since I was in high school, and that was led by really talented instructors who told us exactly where to go and what to do. #2.) Apparently Husband had never been rafting before in his life. (Finally! Something I had done that he hadn’t.) In fact, of the four of us, Husband’s cousin was the only one who had any REAL experience when it came to rafting.

Yeah.

It was…interesting, to say the least. Now usually, depending on where you go, there’s a little bit of a break between rapids. I mean, that had always been my experience. We could dink around and swim for a little while in the slower parts, laze about in the raft, then gear up for the next set of rapids.

Well, not this trip.

At least, not right away. We found a really pretty stretch of river not far from our campsite and excitedly boarded our raft. It was Husband, myself, Cousin-in-law and Cousin-in-law’s wife (Cousin-in-law-in-law?). We got started down the river, with Husband and Cousin-in-law manning the paddles. Cousin-in-law’s wife and I were in the middle, ready to start bailing water out of the raft if too much got inside. The excitement quickly faded when we were plunged into the frigid waters in the first set of rapids. There was no time to stop, either, as two more sets of rapids (one of which was easily a class 3) came at us fast.

That brings me back to poor Husband. Now remember, he’s never done this before, and he’s still trying to figure out how to maneuver the vessel to begin with. He was placed in the very front of the raft, which meant that every time that we dipped down he was flooded with icy water and thrown backwards. And since he was wearing a life vest and a CamelBak, he rather resembled a giant overturned turtle. (Which was actually stinkin’ funny. Don’t tell him I said that.) He would flail frantically, while still miraculously gripping the oar, and scream, “Push me up! Push me up!”

We wives would dutifully shove him back into place, and the whole ordeal would begin again. Oh yes, those first three rapids were a bit rough. I did actually think I was going to fall out at one point, because we went down one of the biggest rapids backwards, but I managed to hang on by sheer adrenaline and even shoved Cousin-in-Law’s wife back into the raft in the process. That’s right. *flexes biceps*

Even in the scary moments, it was super fun. There’s something about that rush that totally gets your blood pumping. I’m pretty sure that Cousin-in-Law and I were the only ones who felt that way, but still. Once we were past those rapids and able to get to more stable water, Husband and Cousin-in-Law got things figured out pretty quickly. (Though to this day, I’ve never heard Husband’s voice reach the decibel it did when we went down that rapid backwards. He can laugh about it now, but he wasn’t in such good humor at the time.)

The rest of the day was spent continuing down the river a good 22 miles, which was a bit too far in all honesty. We probably could have cut it in half and still enjoyed it, but the latter half did mean some really gorgeous scenery. The only real downside (apart from the near-death experience) was that the water was freaking COLD. I mean, it’s called GLACIER National Park for a reason. And the water was pretty much straight off the mountain, so it was positively freezing. We had to stop several times with the excuse of dumping out the raft, but I think the real reason was to warm our poor feet so we didn’t up with hypothermia.

Still, it was a grand adventure and one that I would gladly do again. (Especially now that we sort know what we’re doing.) And Glacier is stunning. Simply beautiful. If you don’t want to brave the water, at least go for a hike or spend a few nights camping. It is well-worth the trip.

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