What Is Your Default Character?

link Only one time have I ever looked at my character and said “they’re perfect”. That character wasn’t mine; it wasn’t somebody else’s. It was my personal character. And I was wrong.

http://innovative-emotors.com/college-essay-help-connecticut/ I thought I was all right because I didn’t see my flaws. After all, if I don’t see my own flaws, who am I to think that I have any?

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Would That Really Happen?

How To Write An Essay On Criticism My favorite piece of writing advice is to follow the Rule of Power. The Rule of Power is to “follow the rules of your story’s universe”, and basically asserts that if you want your story’s themes and morals to impact your audience, your characters and story’s world need to be believable throughout. After all, if the story had to effectively lie in order to get across a moral, how effective do you think that moral would be in real life?

follow url For example, if I want to express that to have friends you must be friendly, and that moral/theme/idea is true, all I have to do is tell the truth in a story where that moral would be in play, and the theme will come across!

http://katakira.com/?p=choosing-your-dissertation-committee Sally’s friendliness resulting in her having friends is what shows the moral works. If Sally is a jerk and still gets a lot of friends, we’re either telling a different moral or may have created a story where the characters don’t reflect how people in real life work.

http://ijmal.com/?q=dissertation-diskussion-der-ergebnisse So if we want to create a believable story, we need to be honest with the story’s universe, with the characters, and so on.

homework machine summary But how do we really know that we are right when we choose what “would” happen?

business buying behaviour essays Would Sally really take those emotional scars from being abused as a child and use them as drive to protect others in her circle, or would she become bitter and resentful instead?

http://eraeducators.com/997e4/roorkee-canter-havilder-barti.html Would Bob really be relieved that Sally refused to marry him, or would he feel a tinge of pain?

buy cheap essays Would Thomas really go to all that length just to get back at Bob, when he knows Bob didn’t really mean what he said?

follow link We can’t guarantee that everyone will agree with our character choices- but that’s not the point. The point is if the characters are acting as they would, according to who they are. We don’t want them “breaking character”.

I think it’s important to trust our instinct on this first-off, but if you’re uncertain if your characters or story’s world would really work the way you’re writing (not if they should work that way; not if it would be cool if they worked that way; not if it would be deeper or more meaningful if it worked that way), here are some questions you can ask to ground yourself:

1. Why would this happen?

If you don’t have a solid answer, it might be time to reexamine. If you believe a character would do something, or that something would happen, there are reasons for it regardless of whether the character sees them or not:

Some possible answers:

  • She’s triggered because what just happened reminds her of their conversation earlier.
  • He’s exhausted and hasn’t eaten all day; he’s extremely grouchy now because of it.
  • The idea came to his mind because of spiritual forces, and it hit the spot; so he’s going along with it. (This working, of course, depends on your story’s universe)
  • She doesn’t trust them because she’s been burned too many times by people claiming she could trust them.
  • That’s their personality; they’re expressive as a core personality trait. (Make sure it really is a core personality trait! “Core personality trait” cannot be an excuse!!)

If you really feel like it would happen, and you don’t know why, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen- you might just need to write out more backstory or examine yourself and the reasons why you believe that would happen.

2. Am I asking the right question?

Again- at least in my experience (because I take words very literally to the degree of lunacy) I never ask “should” this happen, I ask “would” this happen. If you’re like me, you may need to choose the question you ask to yourself very carefully. I have examined myself multiple times and I will give a different answer to what “should” happen vs what “would” happen.

Did you ask the wrong question? The only question I ask myself when writing is “What would happen?” Maybe you need to take a similar approach.

I think this largely depends on personality (and how literally you take things), but the following questions are no-gos for me (they’re great for brainstorming, but be careful of writing what happens based on the answers!):

  • “What should happen?” -because then I often make it a moral issue in my head or either what “should” be done in the story or what I “should” be okay writing. Neither of those are bad questions, but it’s good to be aware of the difference in the question. No, morally Bob shouldn’t rape Sally, but he would, and that’s what I should write as a writer. The “what should happen” question confuses my literal mind and so I avoid it.
  • “What do I want to happen?” -because sometimes what I want to happen isn’t based on what would happen but on my own triggers, anxieties, tendencies, etc. Asking “what do I want to happen” brings my own biases and flaws into the equation to a greater degree. I have had to force myself not to write what I wanted to write because it wasn’t truthful: two characters were in an argument, and I wanted one to “win” and put them in a pitiful light, when they were actually being extremely passive-aggressive and cruel. So I had to step back, and make sure that I went with the right question instead of following the path I wanted to follow. And the story is better for it.
  • “What would be funniest?” -because sometimes what’s funniest breaks character and is suddenly very unfunny. When characters are written not based on themselves but based on comedy, they lose their comedic power because the audience loses their ability to connect with them as deeply- honest characters can do absolutely nothing and be hilarious (that may be subjective, but I’ve found that to be true to me). Characters who break character lose their power.
  • “What would be the most meaningful?” -the truth would be the most meaningful, because the truth is what helps people see themselves and see reality. Don’t fall for the trap that anything less than the truth will be more meaningful. Even if people respond well to something that isn’t true, if they try to apply lies to their lives their lives will either break or be weaker in that area. Tell the truth; that, in the end, is the most meaningful.
  • “What would people respond best to?” -because we’re judging what the “best” response is. Plus, response is based on the person- one person might fist-pump at a villain’s death, another cry, another get angry. Let them feel what they feel- it gives them an opportunity to examine themselves and learn more about themselves (of course, I realize, they might not take that opportunity to learn about themselves and they might say that you did something wrong). And again, the truth holds power- don’t think that telling anything less than the truth holds more power than the truth itself.

Remember- the truth is what gives your stories’s themes power. Without truth there can be no themes, and stories can have no lasting impact in peoples’ lives, and stories essentially become meaningless to everyday living. Our opinions, ideas, and angles don’t give stories power. I’ve had to swallow that pill that my own opinions don’t mean that much in my stories, but it’s actually comforting because it shifts me to a new frame of reference and I can look to something. Your opinion on this will strongly vary depending on your worldview, but if you don’t believe in meaning or truth you probably aren’t reading this article with the intent to draw anything from it anyway.

3. What would it take for them to do something different?

Besides this being a great brainstorming exercise (and a way to make sure you know your characters), it can show you if your mind is stuck on only one possibility and not allowing any other possibilities in.

For example, would Sally still kill Bob if…

  • …the police found them right now?
  • …she found out she was out of bullets and she’d have to kill Bob with her bare hands?
  • …she learned that Bob was innocent?
  • …she had five guns pointed at her telling her not to shoot?
  • …her best friends were watching?
  • …she remembered what her uncle told her about Bob?

The answer might be “yes” to all of those. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong; please understand that these questions don’t exist to prove that you’re wrong. You probably aren’t. But if you’re uncertain and you can’t think of any conceivable way that would change, it’s worth going back to question number 1: “why?” and if you have no answer, I’d recommend developing one (you’re a writer, that’s allowed).

In conclusion…

Trust your instincts. This isn’t a post about questioning everything and doubting yourself- but if you ever question or doubt, hopefully these questions can help ground you and give you confidence in your direction!

Plus I think they’re just fun writing exercises.

Go Beyond What Your Characters Do

How do you really get to know people? It’s not by asking “what”- it’s by asking “why”.

Why do you play hockey?

Why do you work there?

Why are you excited about this?

These questions, at least for me, feel very negative. I’m the unfortunately suspicious sort who thinks that these questions means that the asker is questioning my motives and accusing me of making a bad decision in doing what I do. But let’s not take those questions that way; read them as if the person asking sincerely cares about you and is interested in getting to know you:

Why are you interested in writing?

Why are you going for that college degree?

Why are you looking into joining the club?

These questions feel very invasive to me- and they may feel so to you. Motives are incredibly personal; we really care about them, but we doubt others really care about them. We often assume our bosses don’t care why we work for them, just that we do a good job; we often assume our readers don’t care why we write, just that they like our writing; we often assume that our reasons are either obvious or unimportant to other people.

But acceptance regardless of your answers- that’s incredibly helpful and results in an incredible feeling of safety and connection. Most of the times I’ve felt hurt by people are because they assumed that they understood or didn’t ask about the “why”; the “why” is that part of us that is truly deep, that really bares who we are at our core.

(Don’t worry, I’m going to tie this back around to writing soon. Just hang on for a minute so you can get the full point:)

I’ll answer some “why” questions to show you how much this exposes who I am:

Why do you write? Because I want to give people strength through my stories to face the rest of their life.

Why are you writing for the Writer’s Lounge? To my chagrin, it’s because I want to build a following for my own work… I’d rather that motive be because I want to help others. (The “why” question gets to our hearts, and to pieces we don’t always like. So my instinct is to get defensive; but I’ll do my best to tell the truth.)

Why do you want to build a following for your own work? Because I want to help people and the bigger the following I have, the more people I believe I can help. So I guess writing for the Writer’s Lounge goes back to helping people, when I go to the core of my motive.

Why do you want to help people? It’s a core trait of who I am that I see passed down through my family. I think that sounds strange; but I always feel much better helping others than I do working for myself. But even when I don’t feel good helping others, I feel a sense of duty to help others that pushes me forward.

You’ve just learned a lot about me. Whereas if we had just followed the question “what”, we might have learned this:

What do you do? I’m a speaker and writer for comics, books, kinetic novels, and more. I also create blog posts for the Writer’s Lounge.

What types of blog posts do you write? I write Tip Zone blog posts.

What is your favorite color? Orange.

You learned facts about me from “what”; you learned about my soul from “why”.

We need to ask “why” of our characters.

Usually a short character description looks like this:

“Dan is an adventurer who is often shunned for being a half-elf. He is the shame of his family for taking on axe-wielding, which he picked up from his childhood dwarven friends who he hung out with all the time. He’s rambunctious and a joker but takes what other people say very seriously- even though he pretends he doesn’t.”

The statement above is a great place to start. Yes, it answers the “what” and not much of the “why”- but the “what” isn’t bad. You just can’t end with the “what” and expect to understand the depths of your character.

Let’s break this down and ask “why” about each section:


Why is his name Dan? Dan’s parents were raised in a city that was destroyed by the Dark Lord; the name of that city was Dan. His parents named their son Dan in honor of the city and to keep the memory of it.

(Don’t be afraid of asking too specific of a “why” question or to ask one where the question isn’t obvious. Asking why a character was given their name is a great question to ask, even if the answer is just because their parents liked it.)

“…is an adventurer…” (note the emphasis on “is”)

Why is he an adventurer right now? He’s very uncomfortable around others but has found that if he can get supplies or materials for others, they don’t care much about his appearances. He takes on difficult jobs, but he’s found he can make some good money on them right now. As a bonus, his strange heritage and axe-wielding helps a lot of people remember him, which is good for business. He’s not doing well financially right now, so every way to make money is good.

“…is an adventurer…”

Why is he an adventurer? He grew up hearing stories about travelers and adventurers. His dwarven friends got axes at the early age of 4 (like all dwarves do), and Dan had the opportunity to play with them. They played a lot and practiced a lot with their axes, so Dan grew up very comfortable with using them. (His parents would have freaked out if they discovered Dan played with axes at the age of 5; so this was kept a secret by Dan and his friends.) They played games with their axes where they pretended to be on adventures, fighting trolls and whatnot, and he grew attached to the idea and held onto it as he grew older.

We can also branch off the above paragraph (and not just the initial character description) to learn more:

“(His parents would have freaked out if they discovered Dan played with axes at the age of 5…”

Why would his parents have freaked out? For one, because Dan would have been a 5-year-old playing with an axe. But they were also terrified about what happened to their city growing up; they didn’t want their son to grow up to be a warrior. Their reaction to what happened was to stay as far away from war, fighting, and violence as possible- and they didn’t want Dan stepping into that.

You can ask the “why” question for as long as you want and reaching out as far as you want.

Note that some questions’ answers might just be that the character has a core personality trait:

“He’s rambunctious…”

Why is Dan rambunctious? That’s just a core personality trait. He has tons of energy, and even though his parents thought when he got older he would mellow out, that never happened- he seemed to become more energetic, in fact, as he embraced that part of himself. He has tons of energy, and he takes great care of his body through a rigorous workout, so he’s only gotten more energy over time.

Know your characters by asking “why”. Don’t stop at the what- the facts- but continue through to understanding their motives, the core of who they are, the core that can be overlooked. You know that “why” matters for you; you’ve surely said before “that’s not what I meant!” If only they understood why, they would see you differently… so be sure to ask “why” of others.

Answering the Famous Question

We all have our vices. But sometimes we get deeper into our vices because we view life as a tug-of-war between what we want with a piece of ourselves and what we want on another level- for our future, our children, our friends and family. But sometimes our vices aren’t a problem of avoiding a bad thing, but too much of a bad thing.

Entertainment can be great for us for relaxing and growth- but a seven-hour binge watch until 5 AM with work the next day could get us in trouble, or at least give us a miserable, strange day.

This famous question, which appeared of a final paper in one of my animation classes and I’ve heard fairly commonly, it like those vices. Fun is an essential part of life; it’s when those things which we find fun take over and rule our lives that they become a problem. But our lives have to contain fun, or we’d all hate our lives pretty quickly (or at least I’m pretty sure I would).

The famous question is this:

Which is more important: character or story?

The question seems innocent enough, but it was as I was dissecting this question years ago that I realized the harmful mindsets for writing that underly it. I realized how little I understood about story and what the question was really setting me up for: weaker characters and weaker story.

Let’s dissect the question and break it down:

go Breakdown 1: Which is more important inside of the story: character or story?

Already we see some confusion. Is the container more important than that which it contains? The characters wouldn’t exist without the story; and at the same time, the story won’t progress without its characters.

A logical question though is, more important in which ways? Here’s what I think is usually meant:

http://digitalpowerqatar.com/?q=business-plans-uk Breakdown 2: Which of these elements inside of a story is more important for making a compelling story: character or story?

Again, this is confusing, because we’re asking if the container which makes the contained exists is more important than the contained…

…or if the contained which makes the container exist is more important than the container.

Let’s step back for a moment and ask ourselves, how does a story exist?

By characters acting.

How do we understand and relate to characters?

By seeing who they are through their actions, thoughts- by their stories large and small.

How do stories develop? By characters acting and responding to each other.

How do characters develop? Through how they respond and react to their stories- what happens to them and what they do.

So characters are intrinsic to stories, and stories are intrinsic to meaningful characters.

Here’s what I believe people are really asking when they ask the question, “which is more important”:

http://euskalnatura.net/?p=student-papers-assistance Breakdown 3: If I have to compromise between having something meaningful happen and having the characters be meaningful, which should I choose?

That third breakdown shows a misunderstanding of how characters and story are intrinsic to each other’s meaningfulness. Never sacrifice characters on an altar to story or story on an altar to characters.

Do you think that characters that act out of character make the story more or less believable?

Do you think that stories with less punch help us get to know the characters more or less?

Stronger characters lead to stronger and more meaningful story.

Stronger story leads to stronger and more relatable and lovable characters.

If you ever feel like your story is weak, strengthen your characters.

If you ever feel like your characters are weak, strengthen your story.

Story and character have a mutualistic relationship, and you cannot help one by harming or lessening the other.

Like our vices, the problem with the question isn’t a love of characters or story: it’s making a good thing an ultimate thing. Just like you need a proper balance of work and rest, and if you lose one the other in the long haul (and short haul, really) you suffer, your story will suffer if you make either character or story an ultimate thing.

Sometimes the best thing to tackle a hard project right is to take a quick nap, and sometimes the best thing to tackle a tough character is a tougher story.

Is Your Story Long Enough?

Is your story long enough?

The response to this question feels very obvious. The right question isn’t “is my story long enough?” but “is my story the length it needs to be?” Because we have more of an understanding, with the internet and being able to make pages, chapters, books, videos, songs, audiobooks, etc. the exact length we need them to, that we don’t have to pad length for the heck of it- we can have the first chapter be 20 pages, the second 30, the third 10, and so on- whatever’s best for telling the story. The first video can be 5 minutes, the next 7 minutes, the next 20 minutes- we don’t have to follow a template like for newspaper blocks or television slots.

But let’s step back and reconsider the question…

The book, the movie, the novel, the TV series, the audiobook, is not the story. They are ways to tell the story.

The story is the same when it is in your head, moves out into a story outline, and becomes the first draft (yes, I know usually the story is adjusted in those stages, but bear with me for the concept here). Your imagination, your story outline, your first drafts are just forms the story takes- story forms.

You can recall a story in your imagination after experiencing it in book, movie, whatever form- and it’s the same story, it’s just in another form- your imagination- rather than it’s original form as a book, movie, whatever form. The story is the soul, the form the body.

So the question isn’t whether the story form is long enough- whether that 20-minute TV episode should have been 45 minutes, or whether that 10-page chapter should have been 30 pages- the question is whether or not your story itself is long enough.

Does your story cover the length of time that it needs to?

Of course, the reasonable question then is long enough for what?

The purpose for which you wrote the story.

Is your purpose to express yourself? Well, is the story long enough for you to express yourself?

Is your purpose to teach a moral? Well, is the story long enough to teach that moral effectively?

Is your purpose to share a new world? Well, is the story long enough to get in-depth and really learn about that story’s world?

Don’t misunderstand- I’m not suggesting that you give scenes to your editor that ought to have been cut. I’m not suggesting that you have meaningless dialogue or pad your story with empty words. I’m talking about adding meaningful pieces to the overall story so that your goal for the story is reached.

Don’t add in meaningless content- but add in meaningful content if it helps your story accomplish its purpose.

No story is too long or too short. But many stories are told too slowly or quickly; and sometimes stories are too short or long to accomplish their purposes as effectively. Story length should be adjusted based on the needs to accomplish the story’s purpose.

Is your story the length it needs to be?

5,000 Characters You Forgot About

“Bob! The aliens are coming to steal everyone’s brains!” Sally shouted as the UFO flew down over the capital.

All 400,372 extra unimportant characters around the capital were helpless, fleeing from the scene in unity, nobody different or thinking different or going into fight mode instead of flight and, all unable to do anything to save themselves or do anything useful…

Why are all the extras identical?