Giving a Character Flaws

I’ve really been struggling with one of the characters in my book. He’s a very important character in the long run, for the story, but he was boring me to tears. I realized it was because he was too perfect. I hadn’t given him any flaws, anything that defined him as a real person. So my goal for today was to develop his backstory and figure out just who this guy was and what made him tick. I think I came up with it!

Most of his story won’t make it into the current book, but knowing this about him will help me make him a more interesting character. I wrote a story about the beginning of his friendship with another character and the loss that made him who he was. Perhaps that story will be revealed in a future book or just be a short I release at some point, but now that I know him better, I can write about him in a way that makes him much more interesting.

It was hard, though, to admit that there was something fatally flawed about his lack of flaws. Once I figured that out, I struggled for the last week to figure out how to fix that. I felt my creativity had abandoned me when I needed it the most, but today, I woke up feeling it renewed and decided I was just going to get this done.

So what I did is I stood up and started pacing. I yelled at myself and just kept working out details OUT LOUD until I got it done. I’m sure some folks out there would think I’d need to be committed if they’d seen me, but thinking out loud is an important part of my creative process. It helps make my thoughts more focused and real.

And I feel really great about it! I can’t reveal too much about what I’ve written, but it’s sooooo good! And now this character is definitely one of my favorites.

An Old Piece of Fiction

So I came across a piece I wrote in 2002. It’s technically ‘fan ‘fiction’ but re-reading it, I can see a novel in it if I change all the names, so I’m thinking of doing something with it. It needs a lot of work, but here’s the original piece (at 1215 words):

What a battle!  I stand, blood trickling from shallow bites and before me lay the mangled corpses of several purple creatures with large teeth and sharp claws.  While I was wandering through the grassy plains near Lytlethorpe, a town I have come to call home, these monsters attacked me without provocation and drawing upon newfound knowledge and a courage I didn’t know I possessed a moon ago, I was forced to defend myself.

Defend myself?  I killed these monsters.  It sounds so peculiar to me.  Being an Aluvian of noble birth, I’ve never used a knife but to butter my bread.  But now, in this land far from my birthplace, I sport a dagger.  I’m a warrior!  I’m still taken aback by all that has happened.

I heard of others who received a “call” from a wizard named Asheron, a call to take up arms and defend a mysterious far away land.  Those people disappeared and I assumed they merely took off on foot for the northern mountains or the southern plains of Ispar.  Yet, those individuals were never seen again..  Little did I know that those who were called were now in a land so distant from Ispar no amount of ordinary travel could reach it.  But here I am and it isn’t nonsense.  For me, the wizard’s call became my escape.

I’m still furious with my parents.  They arranged an appalling marriage for me with a terrible Milantan man named Vitold.  ThelandofMilantosmay neighbor Aluvia, but it is a world away.  It is a dark and disgusting swamp where horrid rituals involving dark magic are commonplace.

Vitold told me he was planning on becoming ruler of Milantos.  I’ve heard the only way a new ruler is installed in Milantos is when the old ruler is murdered.  That is the way of life in that land.  And I was to become a wife to Vitold and live there?  I told my parents it would NEVER happen!  They were deaf to my protests.  They seemed to care nothing for my feelings.  They told me it was my duty to Aluvia to keep the peace, and that Vitold, during a previous visit to our town, had taken a liking to me.  I believe they were afraid of the power that Vitold was  could wield.

In Aluvia, I wore beautiful dresses and attended fancy parties.  At public affairs, I played the perfect noble’s daughter, curtsying at the right times and laughing at the right jokes.  I am a petite, young woman of 19 years with pale skin, hair as black as ink and deep blue eyes.  My parents had tried to marry me off many times before Vitold, but upon meeting me, my strength of mind never appealed to the potential suitors.  And I was perfectly happy with this.  I never wanted marriage in the first place.

In Dereth I can see I am part of a greater destiny.  I will battle the evils of this world and try to restore Dereth to the land that Asheron showed me in the visions he sent me.

The visions.  I didn’t make my decision so quickly as I might have implied earlier.  I put off the decision for almost 14 moons.  During that time, Asheron whispered in my dreams.  “Dereth needs such a strong-hearted and dedicated girl as you.  It is your destiny to heed my call.”  My dreams showed me Dereth, the beauty of the land and the sky, so different yet so similar to Aluvia’s sky.  My dreams also showed me the woman I could become, a warrior destroying the minions of evil and helping restore peace to Dereth.  All I had to do was accept the invitation.

Vitold made my decision for me.  He came to me late one humid summer evening, as was often his custom.  He told me we were to be wed in two days.  Two days for a proper Aluvian wedding?  But no, he told me we were not being married in Aluvia.  I was to pack a few belongings and a carriage would pick me up in the morning to take me to Milantos.  I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be ready and had no intentions of marrying him.  I started to walk away from him when he grabbed me, turned me towards him, kissed me forcefully and then hissed, “You are forsaken.  You are mine.”  He let me go and walked towards the door.  He told me to be ready at dawn for the carriage that would be waiting.

After he left, with the taint of his kiss on my lips, I heard Asheron’s voice more strongly than ever before.  I went to my room, changed into a tunic and pants and I was ready.  As soon as I made this decision, a white swirling portal opened before me.  With tears in my eyes, I entered the portal and left behind Vitold, my family and Ispar forever.

I was shaking, out of anger, fear, frustration and now sadness. I had choice but to leave. And leave immediately. Run. Far away somewhere where Vitold could never find me. I don’t know if I actually heard Asheron at that moment, maybe I wanted to so badly that I did. But I know that I WILLED that portal to find me. I know that I had only a split-second decision to make.

I was assessed before I arrived, apparently, as all who are called by Asheron are.  I am lithe and quick, so it was determined I was best suited to use daggers and knives.  Apparently, I also have some natural ability in enchantments and I can cast spells that increase the deadliness of my weapon or the strength of my armor.  I am also able to cast spells on myself to make myself faster and stronger.

When I arrived, I was given a knife and many other items to assist me in finding my way.  I was greeted and given my directions, to proceed directly to the training facility.  I made my way into the hall and found many friendly and helpful people to assist me on my way.  I was taught how to use my dagger and given a great deal of useful information to help me adjust to my new home.

So here I am, alone in this strange land, and yet surrounded with the familiar.  This is not Aluvia, not even close.  But Aluvia is all around me.  The buildings, the clothing, the people, the speech, and ah, the smells, it is all that of home.

The moment I left the training hall, I headed out to explore the wondrous green fields and found the most adorable little rabbits, seemingly friendly as they let me walk right up to them and pet them.  Then I came across these three monsters, which without warning, attacked me.  I had to defend myself, and using the basic skills I was taught in the training hall, I did very well.  I have only a shallow wound on my shoulder, a few minor scratches and a tear in my tunic, which I shall need to have mended.  I had always thought that if I were harmed, I would faint at the sight of my own blood.  But I have discovered I am made of stronger mettle than anyone who knew me in Aluvia would have ever guessed, even me.

Thoughts?

Submissions Are Nigh!

I finally sent in my first submission. This one wasn’t to a publisher or an agent. I entered a contest called WoW: Women on Writing Contest for Flash Fiction. It’s not a fantasy or sci-fi, my usual niche of writing. Having to write something in less than 750 words and tell a complete story was pretty hard, but I think I did OK. Time will tell if it was good enough to win. If not, I’ll submit it to some pro-paying markets.

I’ve been tinkering with various networking sites, like the AbsoluteWrite forums, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. You can see I’ve added a Goodreads bar to the right side. If you are interested in what I’m reading, you will be able to see that there! Right now, I have two fantastic books waiting on my Kindle App for me to read – Richelle Mead’s Shadow Heir and Kim Harrison’s A Perfect Blood. Unfortunately, they are both being back burnered right now because I’m reading another fantastic novel. Mine!

Twice Sworn is my novel. I’m still working through what I hope to be my final rewrite/edit. I have an editing partner (I’m reading her book and she’s reading mine) as well that’s really helping to strengthen it. I’ll find a beta reader or two soon as well. I’m almost there with it! Here’s what my rough draft of my query looks like, so you can get an idea of what the book is about:

TWICE SWORN is the story of Alexandra Ward, a human mage and private investigator who has gotten caught up in the troubles of the Asura, immortals who wield strong magic and who live by the words ‘power is life.’ The Asura bond with willing human mages, but once sworn, it’s impossible to break it. Impossible for everyone except Alex Ward. Having once been sworn to an Asura named Jerrod, she managed to break her bond and leave that life behind. Unfortunately for her, it won’t stay left behind. She runs into Jerrod again while investigating the disappearance of a bride on her wedding day and gets drawn back in.

When she discovers that an Asura she once cared about has been killed, she readily heads back into the fire and intrigue of Asuran politics. What she didn’t expect was to meet a bonded human who turned her head, a complication she didn’t need in her life.

I found an agent I really, really want. Which means I’ll be terribly disappointed when I get a form letter back telling me she’s not interested at all in my book. Once I’ve completely rewritten the end of the book and have a strong query letter, though, she’ll be hearing from me, so wish me luck!

It’s Not Writer’s Block If I’m Writing

Writing is both easy and hard. It’s very easy to brain dump – I do it all the time. Then I go back and re-read my brain dumps and realize everything I wrote is crap and every line, every word, needs to be replaced. That’s the hard part for me. I guess most would call it the editing process. I can write story after story after story if I don’t have to re-read and edit them.

Couple that with the fact that I’m never truly happy with what I’ve written. I’m still working on that 750 word short. The story is complete and essentially told, but I’m not nearly happy enough to submit it. I think I’m OK with the first two paragraphs, but the rest needs a complete rewrite. However, this is my problem with everything I write. By the time I get the rest rewritten, I’ll go back and read the first two paragraphs and realize I HATE them. Right now, I’m liking them:

If gray were an emotion, it would be despair, I thought as I stood outside an old gray farmhouse, looking around at old gray barns, across barren gray fields, and up into a gray sky. Refocusing my attention on the reason I was out in the chilly morning air, I noticed Benjamin Collier was not gray. Upon closer inspection, I became aware that he was pretty cute, in his flannel shirt and raggedy jeans. If he shaved off the scruff on his face and cut his hair, he might even be called handsome. I shook that thought off, because in truth, something about him was completely unappealing to me. I wouldn’t figure out what that something was until later, when it was too late.

Our reason for gathering out here at this desolate place was a scavenger hunt of sorts. We were here to learn about the life and times of Benjamin, or so he said. I received the email to this “exclusive” invite-only event and was both excited and a little skeptical. The prize was supposedly the chance to be published nationwide, and being an aspiring writer, that sounded almost too good to be true. After talking it over with my best friend, she convinced me to at least show up.

I have to get over this. I know I have to get over this, if I hope to be a published writer. But that’s easier said than done.

My novel is the worst example of my issues with my writing. It’s done. It’s been done three times. But then I decide there’s some plot point or character name or description I just hate and have to go back through and fix all the instances of my referencing that. That’s not stopping me from working on the sequel or the query letter though. I am DETERMINED to get this novel out to agents in the next month.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading the AbsoluteWrite.com forums and that’s been helping with steeling myself to submit my writing, but not so much with my time management skills. I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like (and the kids being out for President’s Day does not help either!) I’ve also been adding folks I want to read about to my Twitter account (authors, agents, publishers and the like) and some of their tweets are also pretty enlightening. I’m doing everything write but editing my works, so that’s my focus the rest of this week. I’m going to edit, edit, edit.

FIRST!

I know, it’s a pretty unoriginal title. Sue me. I’ve been writing or reading about writing all day and my brain is tired.

This is my first blog post. Stating the obvious – it’s something I’m fantastic at! Right now, I’m working on four separate projects. Here’s a breakdown:

1. A less than 750 word flash story for a contest. I’ve never entered a contest before and I thought, why not? How hard could it be to write a compelling story in 750 words? Well… I’ve got news for anyone who had that thought. It’s freakin’ hard! Regardless, I’m pushing through and going to write the most compelling 750 word story I can muster! Wish me luck. I’m on my 3rd draft and it’s not even close yet. It’s a… crime/mystery piece? I guess? There’s nothing supernatural about it – it’s just about someone who does something bad to good (and naive) people.

2. My novel. It’s called Twice Sworn and it’s in its third rewrite. I’m going to finish this thing and start to query out by the end of March if it kills me! Oh and here’s a mock-up of what I want the cover to look like. Yeah, I’m no artist! Laugh on!

3. Another short (not a flash short though, just a short) that’s autobiographical. When I was 10, I knew a boy, the first boy I ever kissed, who was fearless and amazing and always a little dirty. He was older than me too. He was killed, drowned by an alligator, in the local river. Many of my memories are fuzzy or have faded over the years, but my memories of him and of my reaction to his death are still strong with me. It will be both a light piece filled with childish joy and hijinks, and a tragedy, because it has a very real and very sad ending. I’ve started it and it’s proving hard to write, but it will be worth getting out in the end.

Click to read newspaper article about Robbie Crespo’s death.

4. A project for the iPad with my dear friend Stephen Russell. I’ve started it and have a pretty good idea where I want (part of) it to go. This will be a long term project -and a successful one! – I hope.

I’ve also decided to start blogging! I’m going to write as much as possible to get that muscle at full strength again, since my foray into another career put the writing on hold. I’m glad to be back and I’ll be stronger than ever soon!

Author Staci Krause blogs about her craft.