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Monday, 17 June 2013

My Secret to giving Character to my Characters















Co-create the Character with your Reader

One mistake I believe writers make when they are creating a character is they tell you everything you need to know about the character.  But that isn't the way we meet people and get to know people, and it is NOT the way we ignite the imagination.

In fact, the closest we get to a character description in real life is a friend telling us about a person before we meet them.  Instead, most of us pride ourselves on not jumping to conclusions about people before we meet them.  

We wait until at least we see their tattoos, eyebrow piercing and the scar running down their snarl before knowing they are exactly the type of person our parents will reject, and therefore the perfect life partner.

(On a side note, what a character says about another character tells us just as much about the character talking, as it does the character he/she is talking about.)

A more effective way in your writing is to lead the reader to judge a character for themselves through their actions or in clues, like appearance.  That way a more authentic and deeper bond is fostered between the reader and character as it is THEIR judgement, not you telling them.

A word of warning here, do not describe the character's appearance in too much detail either.  (I sometimes do a little too much, but I know that I really shouldn't!)

As with letting the reader co-create the persona of our characters, let the reader fill in the details of a character's appearance.  Ignite the reader's own imagination by picking a few 'touchpoints' that infer the personality or status or background etc., and that can be employed later to reintroduce the character throughout the book.

The retired general with one squinting eye and a giant mole with luscious hair cascading from it as if it were a separate living entity, will connect better with a reader than a shopping list of wardrobe pieces and a police profile description.


WHAM! BAM! POW! ... Bonus Tip for COMICS!

When you are creating characters for comics, you can use these same 'touchpoints' in your drawings too.  Below are some ideas I have had for the new comic I am working on 'Paint the Town Red'.

You can see how a character's head shape, eyes and accessories, for example, help the reader know straight away which character is which.  Beside the first three I have included some original conceptuals of the character before I 'cartoonised' them.


Monday, 3 June 2013

'A Fisherman's Tail' pt.3 by Daniel Grant Newton ... You won't believe what happens next!

If you've missed them due to recovering from seasickness, here are parts one and two.

And now for the unbelievable finale to 'A Fisherman's Tail' ...

With a pained gasp, the struggling fish was landed with a heavy thud on the unforgiving dry boards of the jetty.

Grandpa drew out a wickedly gleaming knife from his tackle box.

‘Well Samuel, I think it’s about time we take this fish home to your little mother,’ Grandpa said to his grandson.

Samuel shook his head with a shocked expression and grabbed his grandpa’s shaking hand as it held the knife poised for the killing slice. ‘What are you doing to the fish? What happened to Ethan?’

‘Well, Ethan was turned into a fish, and a willing fish was turned into Ethan. The soldier crabs carried Ethan down the beach and threw him into the sea from this very jetty.’

‘And then what happened?’

‘The fish that became Ethan began enjoying his life as a human, so he vowed to catch Ethan and spent most of his life looking for the fish that was Ethan. If he caught Ethan, then he would never have to return to the sea as a fish.’

Without warning, Samuel grabbed the silver fish in his small determined hands and threw it back into the water.

He smiled triumphantly.

‘Now Ethan can be a human once more,’ said Samuel.

Grandpa swallowed a gasp as he gazed wistfully at the widening ripples. He ran a scaly hand through his silver hair. ‘We have to go,’ he whispered.  ‘Let’s get home before your mother gets worried.’

'A Fisherman's Tail' pt.2 by Daniel Grant Newton

Click here for part 1...

Ethan settled back against the slimy rock wall waiting patiently for the Admiral’s return. The floor towards the back of the cave seemed to pulse, although in the oppressing darkness he thought perhaps his imagination had conjured up a nightmarish fantasy.

His heart rate rose and his palms leaked as he was hit by a wave of anxiety. Maybe squadrons of soldier crabs paraded there he decided pragmatically.

Ethan’s mind and adrenalin raced as what seemed to be hours passed, the complete absence of light disorientating him to time and direction.

Suddenly, Ethan heard the Admiral’s multi-jointed legs clicking back towards him.

The crab solemnly inspected Ethan before announcing, ‘By order of the high judge, you will be tried on one count of attempted murder.’

‘I don’t understand. You have me mixed up with someone else,’ said Ethan as he stumbled backwards.

‘There is no mistake. There is a definite violation of the 45th Amendment section C. You must proceed to the defendant’s stand to plead your lost cause of a case, you littering…’ The Admiral couldn’t think of a noun insulting enough to express his disgust with the boy.

Ethan hesitated before creeping after the scratching march. He had been deprived of choice, the pit of darkness cloaking any hope of exit. As they crawled deeper into the cave Ethan could hear echoing scritching and creaking, muffled voices, and sharp drifting.

Finally Ethan emerged into a courtroom lit by phosphorescent plankton in swinging baskets hung from the low ceiling. These baskets cast a dim sickly-green glow over the cave walls and revealed prying crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians and reptiles crammed into makeshift stands. These creatures whispered viciously with narrowed eyes gleaming at Ethan as he cautiously inched into the courtroom. Perched on a large stone adjacent to Ethan was a slimy slug with seaweed dumped on its head. Ethan pivoted around wildly seeking a glimpse of the sky, his promise of escape, but around and above him he only saw carpets of moss caressing the limestone.

The Admiral kowtowed three times to the poised slug before scuttling into the crowded stands. All sense of Ethan’s safety vanished with him. A crinkly turtle arrogantly pushed through the audience and hobbled towards the centre stage.

The court opened the case. ‘Ethan versus The Ocean,’ droned the slug on his limestone throne. ‘Counsel, would you enter your appearances starting with counsel for the plaintiffs.’

‘Yes, good morning, Your Honour. Pascal Turtle, Atlantic Ocean, for the plaintiffs,’ said the turtle.

The courtroom fell silent and all eyes peered at the strange two-legged being clasping the sandy UFO.

‘Will you please state your name for the court?’ the judge ordered.

‘Ethan Thomas.’

‘Good morning to both of you. Pascal, are you ready to open?’

‘I am ready, Your Honour.’

‘Proceed.’

‘Good morning, Your Honour. I represent The Ocean and all who reside in or by The Ocean,’ said the turtle as he swaggered belligerently towards Ethan. ‘Ethan Thomas attempted to murder a brother or sister of The Ocean.’

The crowd gasped, enjoying the spectacle.

‘That’s not true. The turtle is lying,’ Ethan protested. ‘I would never do that.’

‘Ethan Thomas, what happened before you were arrested by the sea’s finest admiral?’

‘Well, I was gazing out at the ocean and eating…’ Ethan stopped short. His words caught in his throat.

‘What were you eating?’ smirked the turtle. ‘Was it plankton? Was it seaweed? Were you munching on seaweed Ethan?’

‘No.’

‘No?’

‘No, Mister Turtle. I was eating fish and chips,’ mumbled Ethan.

‘Fish and chips by the ocean ladies and gentlemen,’ repeated the turtle in such a loud voice that no creature was uncertain of what was said. ‘This animal ate fish in front of other fish. You gobbled someone’s daughter or son, mother or father, friend or sibling – flaunting your behaviour to the victim’s family. What kind of sadistic ghoul would do that ladies and gentlemen?’

Pascal Turtle was a conductor of an emotive orchestra, as he waved his flippers about and hyped the crowd into a hysterical crescendo. The amphibians and lizards kicked sand and snarled. The old turtles in the crowd shook their heads whilst the little ones hid in their shells. Angry crabs and lobsters snapped their claws in the air. And a sea cucumber even spat at Ethan.

‘He can’t say that,’ Ethan objected.

‘On what basis?’ asked the Judge, attempting fairness.

‘The fish were already dead – that isn’t attempted murder.’

‘Objection sustained. Eating dead fish makes you a forager not a felon. Please get to your point Pascal.’

‘I’m sorry, Your Honour.’ Pascal grinned a toothless smile at Ethan. ‘You were eating the fish Ethan, then what happened?’

‘Well, the wind came and blew the plastic bag down the beach. So I ran to catch it.’

‘I rest my case Your Honour. Releasing a UFO into the ocean, or littering as the human species call it, is one of the major killers of us sea creatures.’

‘I didn’t know,’ protested Ethan desperately.

‘Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.’

The judge shrewdly stared at Ethan. ‘Taking the boy’s age and apparent ignorance into account, I only see fit to give him the minimum sentence.’ The amphibian puffed out his chest. ‘I hereby sentence you, by order of The Ocean, to sixty years as a fish. After that time period has elapsed, provided you are still alive, you will be granted your human body once more.’

Catch the final twist of this curious short story by clicking here!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Short Story - "A Fisherman's Tail" pt.1

Here is a kid's story I once wrote and thought I'd share with those that are kids at heart.

I wrote it for a creative writing subject at university ten years ago. I clearly was the innocent one in class as many of my classmates were writing about prostitutes, drugs and explicit mindless sex. Meanwhile I was writing about talking sea creatures.

Daniel 


A Fisherman’s Tail
By Daniel Grant Newton

Samuel reckons that his grandpa must know every fish in the ocean – even the ugly toadfish.

Most afternoons when Samuel gets home from school, he and Grandpa go fishing at the creaky wooden jetty. Each time grandpa brings up a fish he animatedly tells Samuel a fantastic story about that very fish before releasing it back into the sea.

One day, grandpa and Samuel were sitting at the end of the jetty with their legs dangling over the side. Grandpa had only just dropped his line into the grey-blue water when a fish bit his line. It was big!

The old man’s scaly hands worked nimbly as he furiously tried to reel the fish in. The fish thrashed around in the water and put up quite a fight.

‘Wow, that’s a big fish,’ Samuel exclaimed.

Grandpa beamed with delight. ‘Yes it is a big fish Samuel, and also a very special fish.’

‘Is it a magic fish? Was it friends with the Loch Ness Monster?’ Samuel’s face lit up.

Grandpa laughed, ‘No, not this fish. This fish was part of a much more intriguing story.’ Samuel’s eyes widened and he fell silent. Grandpa ruffled the small boy’s hair.

‘Your mother told me I can’t keep telling you these stories and fill your head with my rubbish. You’re going to be a big Grade Fourer soon.’

‘Please tell me, Grandpa,’ Samuel whined.

Grandpa smiled and leant over to Samuel. ‘Okay Sammy, but you can’t tell your mum I told you this story.’ Samuel nodded his head eagerly and Grandpa kept battling with the fish as he told the story.

#

This story doesn’t start with a fish, but with a boy about your age named Ethan.

One day, Ethan sat on the sandy bank just over there and watched the afternoon sun caress the violet sea before him. He felt around for the plastic bag by his side, not diverting his attention from the peace he found in the waves. He dragged his dinner out of the bag and his sandy fingers worked abstractedly to pull free the battered fish and soggy chips inside. Ethan screwed up his face as he felt the grease coat his fingers.

A strong gust of wind belted across the beach, stinging his arms with a hail of sand and broken shells. Ethan turned and watched the trees waving their branches like mothers crammed in a train station watching their sons being taken off to war.

Suddenly the plastic bag beside Ethan was snatched by the wind and cartwheeled down the beach. Ethan instantly dropped his fish and chips onto the newspaper, and leapt up to chase the bag.

Each time the bag was at his fingertips, however, the wind stole it again, and the bag would dive and wheel another direction, until finally Ethan stomped on the runaway.

As Ethan did so, a soldier crab boldly sidled out from a hole near Ethan’s foot. The crab stared with polished beady eyes. His vibrant blue armor and long spidery legs were beautiful to Ethan’s eyes.

Ethan dropped to a squat. ‘Hello there.’

The soldier crab seemed to inspect Ethan before marching over to the plastic bag.

‘What is this?’ barked a thin, reedy voice.

Ethan whirled about in surprise.

‘You, the big oaf there, what is this?’ came the voice again.

‘What is what?’ questioned Ethan as his forehead creased. ‘Who’s there?’

‘Are you blind? I’m talking to you,’ the rude voice blasted from bellow. ‘I am a soldier crab. Certainly no grunt. See all the purple stripes on my legs – I’m a well-decorated officer. I am an admiral to be precise, as was my father, his father and his father before him. Of course the father before that never made it to admiral – he was eaten by a seagull before he ever reached admiral, but I’m sure he would’ve made a great leader from what I’ve been told.’ The crab awkwardly gestured at Ethan. ‘So, from now on, I would adjure you to address me as Sir, Admiral, Sir.’

‘Oh, I – I’m sorry,’ Ethan stuttered, ‘I mean, I’m sorry, Sir, Admiral, Sir.’ Ethan paused to re-gather his wits. ‘I’m Ethan.’

‘Don’t bother me with pleasantries, or with whatever else you had in mind to say,’ the Admiral ordered. ‘It is my duty to inform you we have a situation 45-C here, and you are the sole suspect, defendant and guilty party.’

‘A situation what?’

‘Section 45-C of the Underwater Code of Conduct defines this evidence as an Unidentified Floating Object – a UFO.’

‘The plastic bag? It’s a plastic bag, not a UFO.’

‘Tell that to the judge, you lowly land-lover.’ The crab trust a claw at Ethan authoritatively. ‘Follow me.’

Ethan curiously followed the crab as it scuttled up over the sand dunes. The regal crustacean crawled up onto the weathered rocks and into a narrow crevice. Ethan was small for his age, and with some twisting and turning, managed to squeeze into the space too.

‘Wait here while I inform the court,’ the Admiral demanded. Ethan settled himself on the wet floor of the cave, left alone in the darkening shadows.

Click here to continue reading, and to discover whether Ethan is found innocent or... oh, I shan't dare think of the alternative...

"HOLD THE PHONE RANDOM MANGA CHARACTER, DANIEL GRANT NEWTON HAS A NEW STORY FOR HIS AWESOME READERS!"