Character Development Gone Wrong

In an earlier post I admitted to absolutely hating my ten-year-old main character for being the brattiest, most annoying kid I could have come up with. To be honest, though, when I started thinking out the storyline I purposefully made him that way. Since he was a huge brat, it would be easy to make him go through some character development, or so I thought. I wanted to teach him to care about people instead of bossing them around and getting them into danger. I wanted him to become less of a lazy brat and actually start doing things on his own. However, I completely failed in this. The kid started out as a horrible person, which was enough for me to just despise having to write about him. I couldn’t even get around to his character development, as I’m only three books in.
Character development is good for any story. It is great. It is perfect for fleshing out characters, as it allows the writer to make the character overcome both external and internal obstacles. However, these internal obstacles sadly can get too big to overcome. I believe that our personalities are set – we cannot change who we are at the core, we can only change what we do with it. Sure, our beliefs can be challenged – so can mine. Maybe our personalities aren’t set in stone, but that doesn’t mean that this kid can go through a 180 degree turnaround.
Now, there is a big question left: how does one make a character develop in a way that feels natural, without them needing to be horrible people from the start? We, as writers, cannot force our characters to become people they are not. However, they can learn how to be a little braver, a little nicer or a little less reckless. Sometimes they have to. Even the laziest person would want to save their loved ones, right? Let them have to fight their internal battles to overcome the external ones.

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Unintentional Plagiarism

I had never seen the movie E.T. when I started working on my manuscript of which the working title was “The Moon Girl”. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was about other than the friendship between a boy and an alien. It was something I never thought about until after I had already finished the manuscript. That was when I realised something horrible: my story, about an alien princess who had been send to Earth to retrieve her space ships power device, was eerily alike with Spielberg’s E.T. Of course there were differences. The most important was that my alien girl was a lot less innocent than the other extraterrestial being. In the end, she even admitted to having contemplated destroying the entire Earth. As far as I could tell from the summary, E.T. never came close to such ideas. Also, there was nothing cute about my alien girl with her big black eyes. She strongly disliked the main character, who in turn strongly disliked her – even though she only disliked him because of how horribly he treated her. If this is plagiarism, then it was completely unintentional. E.T. came out thirteen years before I was born. I wasn’t influenced by it. However, now I’m starting to feel bad. I should have known.
Another case of possible unintentional plagiarism can be found in the first manuscript in my series. I am not sure if a character’s looks can be plagiarised, though. Otherwise, the Face Stealer and Slenderman could very well be twins. Again, I didn’t intend to do this. All I was trying to do was create a faceless being with some human properties in order to make it fit in with the world. Of course I could have come up with many different kinds of faceless creatures, but a shadowy figure would stand out in a crowd. I couldn’t use that. Instead, I chose to give my demon the form of a tall, bald man with pale skin and no face (until it started stealing them). That is where the similarities ended. This creature didn’t kill or actually harm anyone. All it wanted was to find its perfect face. In the process, though, it swapped the faces of almost everyone in town. It was meant to be funny with just a little bit of scary. It wasn’t Slenderman, yet again I feel like I horribly wronged someone without even thinking about it.
Now I’m wondering if unintentional plagiarism even exists. I know you have to do something horribly wrong in order to be persecuted for it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bad. Being unintentionally unoriginal is not something that should happen to a writer – yet it happens to all of us, as nothing is ever really original. All stories have already been told. All kinds of characters have already been made. We just have to decide how to use them in order to make them interesting again.

Breaking the Rules of the Writers’ Blog

Supposedly there are several rules for keeping a writers’ blog in order to keep it valuable to both other aspiring writers and publishers. Now, I definitely am not aiming at publishers when writing this – the other writers, and possibly readers, are the ones I would like to reach. However, I am getting the feeling that I break those rules too often.

First of all, every blogger needs to be cautious of their amount of posts. To be honest, if I notice people are posting their musings about ten times a day, it is doubtful that I am actually going to take a look at them. I am sorry for that, but such an amount becomes bothersome to keep up with. I try to make sure I don’t do that – in fact, I am pretty sure I don’t do that, as I am sadly in the opposing category of bloggers: those who post way too less and way too irregularly. In order to keep a steady base of readers, one must make sure to actually post to their blogs. While I try to make sure I do that, sometimes my enthusiasm just falters. Suddenly, I lose all inspiration and don’t even want to write a thing anymore. As soon as I stop for a few days, those few days quickly turn into weeks. This is something I should try to avoid, just by keeping up the stream of ideas.

Secondly, the main goal of a writer’s blog should be to either help other writers or to get help for themselves. However, my posts definitely don’t consist of any helpful tips. Yes, there may be some hidden in my posts, but they generally are not the main point. I doubt anyone actually sees them in there. Strangely enough, I am getting the feeling that my posts that aren’t focussing on writing tips are the most well-read. Maybe people just enjoy reading about my musings more, or it may be because I am not an expert, but it still strikes me as odd. I am defying the entire point of the writers’ blog by posting all of this nonsense, yet it appears that people enjoy that nonsense. At least, it is what I seem to get the most responses to. This is still a writer’s blog; I am going to keep it that way, but I am not afraid anymore of breaking the rules.

In the end, I am not entirely sure what the benefit of keeping a blog as a writer is. Nobody is going to find me this way. I am not going to posts my manuscripts on here, as that would cause publishers to never want anything to do with me. I do it, though, because it is fun to me. Keeping this blog is not so much a job as a nice activity to keep me writing. That is all that counts.

Why Having a Writers’ Mind Improves Your Life

Having an active life outside of writing stories definitely stimulates the creative mind, but the opposite is true as well; having a creative mind improves the quality of daily life for sure. It may be because I am still a kid at heart – from the American point of view, I still am a (college) kid, so this may be a strange thing to say. When I started going to the gym for the first time in my life a few days ago, I had been dreading the moment for ages. However, when I arrived it turned out not to be bad at all. I decided to just go for a run on the treadmill, as the other devices seemed a little threatening for someone without training. As soon as I got up there and started running, my mind went wild. Why was I running? Was I fleeing from someone or something? Who or what was it? Ignoring the fact that I actually did not move from my spot at all, it was a great method for keeping my mind busy while my body started to ache. I had to keep going, no matter what, or the enemy was going to catch up with me. I hope I didn’t say anything strange or made any weird noises, which I sometimes do when in thought, but at least my imagination made this physical torture a lot more bearable. I’ll go back there as soon as possible.

It may be a little geeky, but I doubt I am much of an ordinary person. I know everyone likes to claim that about themselves, but seeing the other people’s faces around there allowed me to deduce that most of them were not having any fun at all. I guess that is the beauty of the writers’ mind; it allows us to turn an ordinary day into something amazing, even when nothing at all happens.

The Mighty Pen

I’ll be leaving on a second vacation on August 1st. Yes, I know I may be spoiled, especially seeing as I am not really looking forward to it. I won’t be able to write a thing for a week for the second time in two weeks – which may be the most confusing sentence ever. The point is that last time, it turned out that my laptop did not save any of my writings. It was all lost, maybe due to failure of Google Drive or of the laptop itself – I have no idea, all I know is that I did use Control + S. I probably won’t be taking my laptop this time, as it would be completely useless.

However, this leaves room for the mighty old pen and paper. Some writers say that every great novel should be written on actual paper with an actual pen. It is said to stimulate the creative mind to actually hold something. I am not sure how much of that is true, but it definitely is a nice theory. Sometimes it just feels good to actually see your creations on paper, almost like it could be an actual book. Still, I can see the drawbacks to it. Personally, my hand writing is horrible. I generally cannot decipher what I have written the day before unless I can remember what it is supposed to say. While I would like to applaud the professors who have to read my disastrous hand writing, I don’t think I should do the same to myself. I do like writing on paper, but afterwards I still would have to type it over. Also, I am too messy of a person to be trusted with important documents on a vacation – and yes, to me my stories are very important documents. Every time I lose what I have written, I just want to give up. I like my first drafts most and am not going to write that first draft a second time.

I am sorry for the rant, but I was wondering if there are any writers out there who still do it the old-fashioned way. Who still uses the mighty pen and paper?

Picture-perfect; Pictures in (Children’s) Literature

For the youngest children and the early readers, there is an abundance of picture books – the kind of book where pictures take up entire pages. They love them, as the images help them to create a picture of the scene in their own mind. However, as these children grow older, the pictures in their stories disappear, mainly because they want to feel “grown up” and not go back to the “childish” style of actual picture books. When I was a child, I thought this was a shame. I actually loved the pictures in my books, no matter what they looked like (black-and-white or coloured). Sadly, those books weren’t ever available, at least not for my age range. Sure, I loved reading and I would generally be content with the plain old written novel, but something often was lacking. I wanted to know what the characters looked like. I wanted to know where they were. Children’s books never went into detail, although that detail was exactly what I wanted, and still want nowadays. I believe that novels should start containing some pictures again, if only for the small group of people like me.

To be honest, I do not like comics. I also do not enjoy graphic novels. For my literature courses, I’ve had to read Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which I thought was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. Not because the story was bad – it was a welcome change in the depiction of war novels – but because I absolutely hated the (sometimes gruesome) art. Some books do not need pictures – not if they involve torture, murder or piles of burning mice. The same goes for comic books; to me, they are too picture-heavy and often too over-the-top. I do want to read an actual book, not a comic. I just wish that book would sometimes contain a simple pictures.

Maybe it is just me, but I actually do not enjoy having to think up a character’s looks by myself. To me, whatever I think of is not right. It is not what the author had in mind when they wrote it. It may sound pretentious, but I like the idea of actually looking into the author’s mind. Of course, this does not really work this way, as the author most likely is not the person to provide the pictures. Still, as far as I know they typically have at least some say in what the product is going to look like in the end. If the author agrees, I will agree that it is right.

Now, I have a question. Would anyone else like some visuals in their literature?

My Sources of Inspiration, Part VI: Night Terrors

Having a lively imagination is both a blessing and a curse, especially for those who aspire to use their creative mind. On one hand, it is an amazing ability to always be able to come up with new ideas. On the other hand, coming up with these ideas might not always be the best experience, even more so when they appear at night. I am prone to nightmares. It might be because horror is my preferred genre, but the mind is sadly stronger than most actual horror movies and books. Still, I cannot say I suffer from these dreams. I am pretty much used to them; they come to me daily, although “nightly” may be more fitting in this case.

I would like to advice those who, like me, love to write and experience the same as I do, to keep a dream diary. Having nightmares might not be a nice experience, but there is a good side to almost every bad thing. In this case, you could use these strange dreams to trigger the imagination even more to come up with the best idea ever. Alright, that may be an overstatement, but the point still stands. Keeping a dream diary – by writing in it right after you wake up or else the dream will be forgotten – is a great way to both train the mind to remember any form of inspiration and to have this notebook full of imagination-triggering adventures.

Personally, my nightmares probably are not that typical. They usually concern me being alone in a house that isn’t mine where I encounter ghosts, other strange beings or like last time, this horrible mannequin in an attick. Thing is, while it was one of the strangest dreams I had ever had, in the end only two aspects remained in my mind: a little girl ghost who loved to dance and play piano… and that horrible lifeless doll. As soon as I woke up, I loved it. I love having nightmares.

Change of Scene, Change of Mind

I have to admit that I fail as a blogger. I know that posting regurarly is one of the most important aspects when it comes to keeping readers interested, which is exactly what I haven’t been doing. The vacation of last week has taken its toll on both me and my writing skills. To me, keeping a steady pace is what makes me go on. However, as soon as that rhythm is broken, writers’ block sets in and I can’t bring myself to start writing again. The same goes with blogging.
Even though I may be complaining about the vacation, I also know that a change of scene is what every writer needs once in a while. While I don’t think it is an actual saying, I would like to say that a change of scene brings an actual change of mind. Sometimes, we need to keep our minds of our work and just do something completely else. In my case, my trip to Austria has been wonderful in that sense – although the backache that set in after only three days completely ruined our walking schedule. Just being in a completely different environment, surrounded by people with lives different than my own, was enough to spark so many ideas. I couldn’t write them down as my laptop apparently refused to save anything, but I certainly had enough time to let them stew in the back of my mind. What came out was unlike anything I had ever thought of, forced out by the nightmares I get when I’m sleeping in an unknown bedroom. I wanted to write a family drama concerning the spirit of a little girl, forgotten by her family as time went on. I don’t think I will ever actually finish it, or even start writing it, as it was meant to be a Young Adult novel, starring a teenager who finds out the secret of her greatgrandmother’s daughter. I do not really enjoy YA, nor overly complicated storylines. However, knowing that it was possible to come up with one was nice.
A story closer related to my actual trip was the one about a family running a hotel in the Alps, based on the little girls I met in the hotel where we were staying. They had to help their parents with tending to the guests and cleaning the rooms, so I wondered how many strange things they must have seen. Not much, probably, but it was fun to wonder about someone else’s life. I came up with the idea of them meeting a Yeti – or whatever similar creature is supposed to be living in the area.
While my ideas may not be of much quality, it was a great sensation to know that I still had it – the power of strange, childlike creativity. It may not be worth much to others, but this is the result of travelling. Every new experience triggers a new idea in the back of the writer’s mind. Try to experience as much as you can. It’s worth it.

Please Don’t Look At My Writing

As a writer, this may be one of the strangest statements I have ever made. “Please don’t look at my story, I’m ashamed of it.” No writer should be ashamed of their thoughts and ideas, yet I am sure most of us have to deal with this often. At the moment, I have to share a study with my roommate. He is just one person, and his desk is at the opposite of the room. However, whenever he is sitting there, whether it is playing games or talking to people on Skype, I get this horrible feeling I am being watched. I am afraid that he will turn around and look at my screen while I am writing and see what my story is about. I can’t write unless he’s gone.
It is terrible, actually. Why can’t I write when there is someone in the same room? He isn’t even looking at my screen, yet I always feel he is going to judge me for it. It may be because I like children’s stories and he prefers epic fantasy, but I don’t think he would mock me. Sure, we often joke around about my strange imagination, but he is never mean about it. I should want people to read my stories, right? Then why am I so afraid of it?
It is because I am afraid of being judged. It is because I aspire to become a writer in the English language, although it is not my native tongue. I am afraid that everyone will pick up on it and mock me. It is actually petrifying – but it shouldn’t be. As writers, we will always face criticism. We will always face mockery. We shouldn’t let it stop us, though. My dream isn’t gone. My will is returning. Even better, I finished the second manuscript in my nine-part series about three days ago. Maybe this will go away one day. Maybe I will be able to let those I know read my work. Yes, publishers are not that terrifying to me. What’s worse is the judgment of those we love and care about. But if they are worth it, they won’t judge.

It Isn’t Writers’ Block

I haven’t been able to actually write in days. In fact, my last blog post was a week ago, while I aimed to post about once a day… Moving out has been a pretty stressful experience and I am still adjusted to it. What’s even worse, I’ll be going on vacation in a week, and my laptop’s battery is horrible… No writing in the car, and probably not on the destination either. Still, I feel that Camp NaNoWriMo has been very helpful in the last couple of days. Sure, there may have been way too many guests taking up my time, but whenever I found some, I would start writing again. My second story is almost done – only two chapters left. Then, I’ll be able to start my actual Camp NaNo project.
The thing about writers’ block is that it can have many causes. Being too busy or stressed out is one of them. However, that doesn’t mean we should let it get to us. In order to advance a project, it is important to keep working on it, no matter what. Otherwise you could end up with a case of lost mojo. Now, the question is: how do you get over it?
Firstly, set a daily goal to achieve. It doesn’t need to be impossible. Even a hundred words a day is something. As long as you progress, it works. This is why joining programms like NaNoWriMo is so useful; it forces the writer to achieve the goal – or else they fail. Failing is a bad feeling, which we all try to avoid. Therefore, we start writing if we feel we really need to. It may not feel like a creative process, but it is. Sometimes the brain just needs to be forced into thinking.
Secondly, also allow yourself to do something that isn’t about writing. Watch some television, go on a hike, work out… It doesn’t matter what it is, but clearing the brain is the other side of the coin. People who aren’t stressed out are able to think more easily. Relax! What’s even better, other activities can help you come up with new ideas.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish my project today. I wish good luck to all of you who decided to join Camp NaNo as well!