Other TypesA Lesson by TopHatGirl
Some advice on creating characters in other types of writing.
If you didn't already know this, remember it now: This course is mainly for creating characters in fictional novels, plays (both on and off screen), and longer stories. Other types of writing need more explanation, and this is the only lesson I'll be expanding on that, so it might get a bit long. If you're mainly a novel/play writer and hiss and shun at anything else, still skim through. Writing is writing, and tips can help for any writer.
Type #1: Fan Fiction
Okay, look, I've met a lot of fellow authors, both on and offline. I get tons of advice, most of it good.But one bit of advice I do not like is a warning: to stay away from writing fan fiction. For those of you who are not aware of the term, the definition on wikipedia is:
Fan fiction (alternately referred to as fanfiction, fanfic, FF, or fic) is a broadly-defined term for fan laborcanonical fictional universe and simultaneously existing outside the canon of that universe. Most fan fiction writers assume that their work is read primarily by other fans, and therefore tend to presume that their readers have knowledge of the canon universe (created by a professional writer) in which their works are based.
In normal language, it's just saying that fan fiction is writing based off of an already created universe using their characters, and is non-canon. Like if you're a fan of Twilight (...not going to judge...) and you want to have a story where Bella ditches Edward and goes off to have weird looking children with Jacob. Writing a story about that is called fanfiction.
Back to earlier, when authors say to stay away from this type. I half agree. Listen. When you are starting off in writing with poor grammar and only a very basic understanding of structure and plotlines, I say to you,"Do not start writing fanfiction." Because FF does not usually improve these flaws, it sometimes even makes them worse, because there aren't very good reviewers critically looking at these and pointing out where they need to improve. Start with short stories or poetry. Improve. Leave FF alone.
But. But. But.
When you ARE good at writing, I encourage you to try FF. Why? Because when you write it, you already know the characters you're writing! You know every single stupid characteristic of this Harry Potter character, and how he would react to certain situations! That's a good thing. When you start to get used to knowing what good character structure looks like and bring it into your original stories. So try it!
But TopHatGirl! You ask. How do I write good fanfiction?
Ah, question asker, you forget. I'm not here to teach you how to write well. Those are for the awesome talented writers who are making great courses about that. I'm just here for the character creation, something I'm quite skilled at. (Or, at least, I'd like to think so.)
Okay, fine. But how do I have good characters in fanfiction, when the characters are already made for me?
Excellent question! Yes, you already have good characters at your disposal, but the key is how to use them. Which is where I'll bring up today's lesson in FF: Stay in character.
A huge HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE problem in fan fiction is that people write the characters OOC. OOC stands for Out Of Character, which means that the character isn't well, very much being themselves. I'll use more Harry Potter examples, because many people are familiar with it, and it's easy to refer too. Anyways, let's say you're writing a Draco/Hermione romance fic, because it fills your every fangirl desires(or fanboy, again, I'm not judging.) Dandy! Write it! But it's a very annoying (and oftentimes, bad) piece of writing if Draco Malfoy is out of character. We love him as the annoying a*****e he is, and when someone writes him as sensitive, loving, and somehow pure, then it's just aggravating. But, in fanfiction, there's always the option not to post it, and write it just to please you. That's perfectly fine. Just remember that fanfiction and actual fiction are very different, and you can't slide with that in fiction. Keep characters constant, and keep your fantasies in the fanfic world.
Type #2: Short Stories
No, short stories and stories are not the same thing. Everyone has different ideas of short and long, but for simplicity's sake, let's think of short stories as less than 5000 words. If you've never written anything longer than 5000, then this should be helpful to you*.
Characters in short stories should not have too much details on things that aren't important. What is important, however, varies. If you're writing a suicide story (a good start of short story characters, by the way. Much you can add) then usually you're going to want to write about why exactly they're committing suicide. History and past is important, wherein description of the clothes they're wearing or what class they're good at is maybe not so necessary. Those details may contribute to it, but in a shorter story, people don't care as much. And, more often than not, it's about the present: what's going on, and why it's going on.
That's just one example, though. Romance short stories rely heavily on descriptions of characters; why is so and so the perfect match? Again, you might want to say every little thing in the past that this person has done to make the main character so infatuated. Don't. Give one or two examples, and move on to what's important: who this character is, and based on that, how will they act.
Examples are just awesome, so let's do that:
I gaze at him from the top of my textbook, heart pounding with this long time crush. He doesn't even know my name, there's no way he could possibly ask me to the dance. No. Way. My painfully shy attitude has never gotten attention from the opposite sex, ever. Nope, numbers and figures are the only thing for me. Sigh. Such a shame, with that absolutely handsome face of him. Rugged chin, perfect hair...
The bell rings, and I quickly gather up books and such, attempting to race out the door before he could see me. No such luck, I run right into him, papers scattering into the air like the freakin' fourth of July. He hurridly stacks everything together for me, presenting them to me with that gorgeous smile of his.
"Here," he says. Hallelujah! He's speaking to me! Be still my heart!
"Uh-I-Th-M---" I stutter hopelessly, and he raises an eyebrow. He slowly backs away, trying to get away from the awkward girl that is me. Damn my weirdness! So close. I sigh again, and grudgingly walk to my next class. Such a shame.
Oh, so painfully cheesy and cliche, but aren't most school girl crushes? It was a short few paragraphs, with a beginning, middle, and end. Not terribly exciting, but it's only a small example. We don't know much about the main character, not even her name. We just know that she's shy and awkward, and that she's female. There's probably much more to her, pasts, hardships, talents, but really, we don't know and frankly, we don't care. It wasn't the point. The point was just the definition of a crush: they are hard. We don't need a detailed character to portray this. Understand the concept of using details here and there like sprinkles, and soon you'll get the hang of it.
*-if you haven't ever written a story more than 5000 words long, (school not included) then try it. It's difficult, and hard to get used to, but makes it easier to transition to novels. But if you have never written anything less than 5000, I suggest that too. Having short lived characters helps with making extras in your longer formats, trust me.
Type #3: Poetry
I seriously considered if I should make a lesson on poetry characters. Poetry is broad. Varies. Sometimes doesn't even have characters. Just descriptions. But if you do have poems with characters in it, then take these simple tips:
1. Use entire descriptions with one word or sentences. I am angry all of the time. There, you've pretty much introduced your character. Believe it or not, expansion is not necessary. Again, this is for shorter poetry, not the miles long ones.
2. Use your characters like thread: you don't need to stitch one in to every little thing, but when you use them in the right places, it's gold.
3. Don't distract from the poems with your characters. Getting into long boring diatribes (in poem form! even worse!) about characters gets old fast.
4. If the entire poem is about this character, then make them seem fantastic/terrifying/romantic. Don't disappoint, milk it for what it's worth.
Kind of. There is so much more I'd like to touch on with these types, but I'd need entire courses just to explain, and that seems pretty useless. If you would like me to expand on any type that you see here (or another one that you come up with, I'm pretty knowledgeable about a lot. Even nonfiction) then please, PLEASE, message me. I'm always available for private help with this. But only about characters. I'm not a counselor. Don't ask me about sex or where to buy drugs or why the world is round. I do not know. I do know characters, though.
Added on April 5, 2011
Last Updated on April 5, 2011
AboutBalancing the soul sucking monotony of being a student and the hair ripping insanity of being an amateur writer isn't all it's cracked up to be. But, hey, it's something to tell my therapist one day..