Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment


Elana, Jen & Alex - the blogging trifecta - came up with the idea for the Great Blogging Experiment. They want to prove that each and every one of us will come up with a unique perspective on one topic. The topic for this challenge is Writing Compelling Characters. So here goes...

For me, reading is about the people I meet inside the covers of the book, so writing had better be the same. I'm a very emotional person - probably not a big revelation there. :) I want... actually I need an emotional connection with a character. Otherwise why bother reading? Why bother writing?

So how to do that?

I like to write in 3rd person and tend to alternate the scenes between the male and female leads. Each gets his/her own scenes from his/her pov. Both characters get to reveal their thoughts and feelings. We get to know them both from within themselves and from the view of the other main character. I think -- okay, I hope this helps the readers to really know and care about the characters.

Of course throwing them into life-threatening perils and twisted plots helps as well :)


And if all that fails, I'll just write about these great Steampunk Disney characters. That's gotta work!

How do you make your characters compelling?

120 comments:

  1. Good post, as I write about my life's expereiences in poetry form I seem to write only about what has happened to me/family.
    Sometimes I may improvise and write an unexprerienced poem but not very often,

    Yvonne,

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  2. Yvonne - thanks. I think you and your family are compelling 'characters'! I always find you interesting to read about :)

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  3. haha, yes, using different perspectives to get a complete 3-dimensional character works wonders. Great post!

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  4. Jessica - thanks! I hope it's working anyway! :)

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  5. I like to write between his and her POV's too.

    That's one of things I like when i'm reading too. I love seeing how different situations affect the characters in their own way.

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  6. Jennifer - it's fun alternating the viewpoints. I like having more insights into each character this way :)

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  7. I'd love to read a novel about steampunk Disney characters! Awesome!

    And yes, emotions in characters are important. Plastic fantastic just doesn't cut it in books - the characters need to have a heart (even if it's a dark, twisted heart).

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  8. Cruella - I love the Disney steampunk folks - so much fun!

    Dark and twisted hearts are fun :)

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  9. Yay for joining in on the fun!!! I love the pictures and I'm down for reading a novel about steampunk disney characters just like Cruella!!

    It seems this blogging experiment has taught me that we all think differently when it comes to compelling characters! I love everyone's take!

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  10. Interesting, you really did have a unique point of view on this!

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  11. For me it's all about the emotional connection. They can be totally different from me, but I need to understand on that level for them to feel real.

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  12. Great post Jemi! When I read it's definitely voice that draws me in and keeps me reading. So when I write I do try and recreate that with my characters. It's hard though!

    I love alternating view point. I love that weget to hear a characters take on something then see it through someone elses eyes too, you learn so much more. I've never tried it myself, maybe I will :-)

    The steampunk princess rock!

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  13. Love those photos. I've never seen Steampunk Disney! Great post exposing why third person works for the story and the reader. I currently write short stories in first person or third person limited.

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  14. Hey Jemi,
    That's what I do too. Write in 3rd person and alternate pov between the two main characters. I think we just have to be careful with the pov shift and to not use too many different points of view. Whenever I'm reading 1st person with one pov I'm always wondering what the other main character thinks. Sometimes a good writer can show us that, but not always.

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  15. Steampunk Disney characters - can't wait.

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  16. I like the idea of writing alternating POV, I'm experimenting with that.
    The Steampunk Princesses are a must!
    I like my POV to be alternating omniscient/biased ;)

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  17. Love this post, and I'm right there with you with needing an emotional connection to the characters. Everything feels so flat without that. It is absolutely the same for both reading and writing.

    Make sure to check out my blog. I'm having a book giveaway that is specifically open to you lovely Canadians, because I couldn't imagine leaving you out of my first ever book giveaway. :)

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  18. I love the visual Disney take! Yes, get emotional. I agree, that's what keeps me into a book too ;o) I haven't tried alternating POV's yet, but I love reading books with them!

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  19. I like third person as well, because then I can reveal what's going on in each character's head.

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  20. Disney always works - especially steampunnk'd ones! :-)

    I so agree about emotionally connecting with the characters in a story! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on characterisation!

    take care
    x

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  21. POV is tricly. I think I would do well as a script writer as Omniscient POV comes natural. Makes it difficult sometimes to stay in the Third Person POV. Thankfully I have a terrific editor to keep me on track.

    Stephen Tremp

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  22. OMG! Steampunk Disney characters for the win!!!

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  23. I'm with you, Jemi, if I'm not emotionally connected in some way to the character, I don't care what happens to them. Great post.
    Karen

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  24. Great post. I like the alternating perspectives idea.

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  25. I agree, without an emotional connection, characters are totally forgettable.
    Terrific post, and I adore the Steampunk Disney characters, awesome! :)

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  26. I love those posters!! Great post, Jemi! :-)

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  27. I'm writing in the first person right now but I can definitely see myself doing third person next time - it really does give you room to show others POVs and listen to what they think of each other. Nice post!! ;)

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  28. I want to try writing from different perspectives. Sounds like it would be so much fun getting into more than one head in a WIP.

    I love characters with flaws. Perfection is boring:)

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  29. I love stories with alternating view points because you get a fuller picture of each character by seeing them through the other person's eyes. Great post :)

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  30. I like multiple povs but I've only ever written them in first, not third. Maybe I'll work on that.

    Love the Steampunk Princesses! So funny!

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  31. Since my fictional stories all have a male and female lead, I do the same thing!

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  32. I'm also a fan of the third person, and switching perspectives. Multiple POVS really flesh out a story for me.

    Those steampunk Disney princess are fantastic, by the way!

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  33. POV is an interesting aspect of this discussion. I think it would become the most compelling in characterization if each one sees an event so differently it causes misunderstanding, perhaps even leading to mystery in the storyline.

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  34. Jen - it's fun to see everyone's take on the same subject - it was a great idea! :)

    Matthew - lol - that's what they tell me about a lot of things! :)

    Laura - I agree - it feels fake unless I get that emotional connection!

    Alexa - I love the Steampunk Princesses too! I do like the alternating viewpoints to get to know the character!

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  35. Lynn - I love Disney's steampunk stuff - so much fun! I like 3rd pov best :)

    Yvonne - I do enjoy alternating viewpoints. It's so much fun so see the characters from both angles!

    Rayna - aren't they the best? :)

    Elaine - the alternating viewpoints are fun. You can learn so much that way. :)

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  36. Life-threatening perils work for me. :)

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  37. Julie - I agree - for me it's ALL about that emotional connection. I'll get over to your blog soon- sounds like fun!

    Erica - Disney rocks! Alternating viewpoints are fun - I bet you'll enjoy it when you try it :)

    Alex - that's definitely an advantage of 3rd pov. I like knowing the 2 main characters really well!

    Old Kitty - thanks :) I love making that connection with the characters. And everything Disney does rock!

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  38. Great post Jemi! I try to really get inside my characters heads and become them for the short time that I'm writing. I love the Disney Steampunk characters. :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

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  39. Stephen - You do have to be so careful with the pov. It's so easy to slip and slide in and out of the correct pov!

    Lola - LOL :) - I agree completely!!

    Karen - yes! It really is all about the emotion for me too!

    clp3333 - alternating viewpoints is fun - you can see so much differently!

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  40. VR - Thanks :) I actually gave up on a book with a good plot recently because I couldn't make myself care about the characters!

    Shannon - I love Steampunk Disney - so much fun!

    Talei - thanks! I find writing in 1st person so hard. Good for you for writing it :)

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  41. Melissa - It is fun! And I agree - perfect 'Barbie' characters are so boring!

    Solvang Sherrie - thanks! I love the 2 perspectives. Most of my stories have a romance element in them, so it works :)

    Tere - aren't the princesses great? I haven't tried 1st often - it's hard!

    Diane - And you pull it off very well! I love seeing both sides of the story :)

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  42. Kelly - thanks :) I agree the extra perspective makes everyone a little more realistic!

    Tricia - that's definitely a fun aspect of doing more than one perspective. You get to see the misunderstandings build as the story does :)

    Elana - life-threating perils definitely add to the fun!

    Lisa - thanks! It's great when you can get into the character like that! :)

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  43. Yes definitely we need that emotional connection

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  44. Lynda - I agree - it's all about the emotions :)

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  45. I find that not only their emotions make us care about our characters, but their actions. I'm not talking about the actions that move the plot forward, but the small things, like scratching a head, winking, smiling, snorting, changing weight etc. I believe these impressions not only help us show their emotions but also help us making them more palpable, more real.

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  46. Mari - so true. Cardboard aren't going to entertain anyone! We have to make them real in order to get readers to care about them :)

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  47. I don't think I have the formula yet, but this blogfest has my gears turning:)

    Since I share your emotional sentiment, I hope my character will tug at the heart strings.

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  48. Tamika - a formula would be great! :)

    I agree - there are so many great thoughts on this blogfest. Lots of fun!

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  49. I love books that switch back and forth between characters in alternating chapters. Perfect Chemistry is written that way and it's wonderful. :)

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  50. Sharon - I do too. I've read a lot of romantic suspense over the years and quite a few authors alternate. Probably why it feels natural to write that way :)

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  51. Different perspectives is awesome. In the Mortal Instruments series, that is one of the thigs I loved the most was knowing what all of the main characters were thinking. =D

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  52. RaShelle - I STILL haven't read the MI series - it's been on my wishlist forever. I really have to pick it up! It sure gives you a lot of insights with multiple perspectives :)

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  53. Always 3rd person? It's usually my preference. I like to use first person if it the from the eyes of a witness or a memoir type thing. I think I would be very unformfortable writing from the POV of an evil villain.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  54. SOOOOO, so in love with the steampunk Disney characters!!

    Different perspectives are cool but I think stories can work just as well from first.

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  55. Lee - I find first person hard. Every time I try it, it sounds cheesy. Although it was fun for one ms when I wrote several brief (less than one page) scenes from the villain's pov. He was completely nuts so it was fun.

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  56. Melissa - I think they can work well from first too - but not if I do it! I find first hard to write authentically. It always sounds forced when I do it.

    Disney's Steampunk folks are great, arent' they :)

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  57. I love the steampunk princess picture! Genius. Your take on compelling characters was great! Well said!

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  58. Write in 3rd person... I think that's a great idea!!
    Very interesting post, Jemi!

    all the best to you!
    nensa

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  59. LOL! Definitely throw them into life threatening situations and create plenty of twists for them to become entangled in. Love it!!

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  60. Thanks Renae :) I love Disney's steampunk folks - they are awesome!!!

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  61. Thanks Nensa - I prefer 3rd. Lots of people write first well, but I always feel awkward doing it for some reason. Maybe it's just practice! :)

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  62. Hannah - yup - those life-threatening situations are always helpful :)

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  63. I've read some great books with the alternating pov, but I've never tried it myself. I can see why that would work so well, since the reader experiences both sides.

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  64. Julie - I like it. All of my stories so far have an element of romance in them, so the alternating pov makes sense to me. Plus I really like writing a male pov!

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  65. Oooh, fun post.

    I want to have an emotional connection to steampunk Disney characters!

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  66. Anne - I know! I smile every single time I see them. They are awesomeness! :)

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  67. Steampunk Disney characters would be a hoot, but you'd probably get sued. Still...it sure would be a twist on old characters.

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  68. Helen Ginger - Probably :) But it would sure be fun to write!! :)

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  69. Thanks Nancy! Me too - I love pretty much everything Disney so their steampunk stuff makes me smile every time :)

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  70. So interesting you like to write in 3rd person. I found that much harder to write than first! How wonderful - that makes for great variety in books when we're all different! But the main thing - emotion, that is shared. Great advice here!

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  71. Infusing emotion in our characters doesn't come easy, and sometimes quite painful, but you are absolutely right that it must happen. That is unless you wish to write bland gibberish! :)

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  72. Thanks Terry - I envy you for being able to write in first. It always feels awkward when I do it! :)

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  73. DL - I'm really hoping the stuff I'm writing isn't bland gibberish! :) Emotion is really the key for me :)

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  74. Alternating p.o.v. works well for me too Jemi.

    Trying to put across the personality of a character from his own point of view is often limiting. It seems like the natural thing to do to emphasize some attributes of his character and play down others, often ignoring certain aspects altogether, because that's what we all tend to do in real life.

    Adding another point of view can really produce a rounded character. Seeing him from another person's point of view rounds out his personality, toning down all the ego recognised attributes and plumping up the specific aspects that he might not even recognise in himself.

    I've found I can often learn things about the character that even I didn't recognise at first, just by allowing myself to see him through the eyes of multiple characters.

    Great post.

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  75. Dave - exactly! I like the dichotomy between who the characters thinks he/she is and the way other see him/her.

    None of us have really clear self-views. Others often see us differently than we expect and it's fun to use that in the story :)

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  76. Getting inside a character's POV can really show us a lot about him/her. Good post!

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  77. Sandra - I completely agree. Getting inside their heads really lets us get to know them! :)

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  78. Hi Cutie! Nice post! I'm glad you participated!

    :)

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  79. Thanks Elizabeth! It was sure a fun blogfest - so many unique entries :)

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  80. An emotional connection is huge. As a reader, I want to fall in love with the hero and be the heroine. And I loved the pictures, how awesome!

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  81. I've always liked reading alternating POV...I never understand why it gets a bad rap sometimes.

    I think I'm like you--let's experiment and see what happens when we throw characters into these torturous situations!

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  82. Alternating PoVs is definitely a great way to let the readers experience the thoughts and actions of more than one characters. I especially like it in a romance (or novel with romantic elements).

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  83. Different POVs definitely help in filling out characters. So, too, does back story when it's applicable. I have to agree with Sandy Shin that in romance the pov shift is often vital to the story. :)

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  84. Good post! I'm with you - I really like using more than one PoV - I think it adds to the complexity of each character.

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  85. I'm with you on the emotional connection, even though I write in first person. I also like to be sure the little flaws and foibles are out there. And some humor is important for me.

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  86. I like alt POVs too - it's a bit more of a challenge in 1st person to reveal character flaws that they don't notice themselves!

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  87. Nicole - exactly! I want to be involved with the characters as well. It's the best way for me to enjoy the book :)

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  88. Elizabeth - I agree. I enjoy reading single pov as well, but 2 pov is a lot of fun - both to read and write. Nothing more fun than experimenting! :)

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  89. Sandy - exactly - I enjoy a touch of romance in a story. It's nice to see the relationship build from both sides :)

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  90. Kimberly - I agree - I think the romance is a little stronger when we see both sides of the romance. :)

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  91. Shannon - exactly. If you see people from within and from without I think you get a better handle on things!

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  92. Terry - I have such a hard time with first person - it always sounds awkward when I do it. :) Maybe one of these days I'll get a better handle on it!

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  93. Susan - I agree. I'm not very good at first person pov, but some people do it very well. I find it hard to really show all parts of the personality. :)

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  94. I try to give my characters a vulnerability that the reader can somehow relate to and so enjoys the journey that vulnerability inspires. I guess it's all about connection.

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  95. Hi Jemi,
    Very thought-provoking post.
    I try to put myself in my character's place emotionally.
    One device I read about recently but have not tried yet is to tape photos of the characters near the keyboard to help visualize them.
    Donna V.
    http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com

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  96. I do the same thing: alternate between male/female leads.

    Don't know why I do that, but I do. The male tends to be pragmatic and aloof, private with his thoughts even to the writer/reader, calculating, logical, and often serious (not always). He's emotionally steady, flawed by lust and drinking, and has a deep love for at least one woman, and especially his children, if he has them.

    The female is emotional and subject to drawn-out introspections, long conversations with her friends, and higher-lower emotional swings than the male. We know everything about her, especially the good parts, if you know what I mean... Her flaws usually walk the line between motherly v. judgmental.

    And it's the woman who inspires lust in the man, absolving him of this one sin at least.

    Just like in real life!

    ;)

    I even write them in different voices.

    Always, though, both genders are fighters. That's a core value that all humans have, that when pushed, we push back. Perhaps that fightiness is the root of all we write, and why we've become so hung-up by the pro-antagonist push-pull conflict for plotting.

    Gotta have conflict, eh.

    - Eric

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  97. I always love to get inside other writers heads'. Thanks! :)

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  98. Joanne - I think you're so right - it's all about that emotional connection for me. And I love your point about vulnerability :)

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  99. Donna - I've heard of people doing that too. It's a neat idea! Getting inside the characters heads is so important :)

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  100. Eric - great points. The conflict is such a vital part of the story. And so often some/all of that conflict lies in the relationship between the male and female leads. My stories tend to reflect that pattern too. I like the byplay between the 2 leads. It's so much fun to switch between the 2 viewpoints. As you say they are so different and they view everything from such different perspectives.

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  101. Kimberly - thanks! It is so fun to see how different writers approach every aspect of writing :)

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  102. Throwing them into exciting situations DEFINITELY helps! :o)

    Where did you find these cool pictures of the Disney characters?! They're amazing! I love them and I'm stealing them... just so you know. LOL!

    Have a great night, Jemi.

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  103. I love it when you meet a character and then read someone else's take on him or her/different POV. So revealing.

    I like writing in first person best--at least right now.

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  104. Jackee - lol :) Go ahead - I love Disney's steampunk characters too. They are wondeful. :)

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  105. Dawn - I enjoy the alternating pov for that reason. It's fun seeing the 2 views.

    When I write in 1st person it seems to come off as clumsy. I just don't have that ability yet :)

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  106. I love the steampunk disney! How great is that?

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  107. Sorry I missed this post!

    I try to do a mix of flaws and redeeming qualities. The last pieces I've written have all been in first person. I like to get in my character's head. Now I'm trying present tense.

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  108. Too bad Disney would sue!! Darn, guess we better work on great original characters, huh? I think making them feel flawed and in some way likable (even the bad ones) makes them real. Balance I guess. I do throw mine into action usually right away but since I write first person you (hopefully) really get a feel for who they are because of their reaction. And hopefully the bit I give about who they are, is enough to draw you in...

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  109. Steampunk disney! How did I miss that?! I have no idea how I make my characters compelling. They spring from the story, and vice versa!

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  110. Janet - I know! They make me smile each and every time I see them! :)

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  111. Theresa - you are brave!! I find both first person and present tense hard to do. It always sounds kind of cheesy when I try it :)

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  112. Lisa - I'm impressed with you writing first person. I find it really hard to do. It just doesn't come out right!

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  113. Jayne - I love the steampunk Disney folks - they're just so fun :) The story and characters are completely intertwined aren't they?

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  114. Jemi, it's even worse. The chapters alternate between her present as a teen (in present tense) and her past when she lost her eye (past tense). I don't even know if I'm ALLOWED to do this.

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  115. Theresa - lol :)

    I love the challenge you've set yourself! I'm a little scared just thinking about it - but I bet you can pull it off!

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  116. I have several pov's going on in my wip. Don't know how it'll all turn out but I'm having fun getting in to all those heads.

    Great post, ~That Rebel, Olivia

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  117. Olivia - it is fun! I enjoy all the different characters, but there's a special connection when you work inside someone's head! :)

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  118. No-one else has said this. Interesting idea! So, if we show more than one perspective on our characters, the reader can get to know them better and therefore be more interested in them. I like this theory!

    Thanks for the post!

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  119. Thanks Ishta :) I like to write that way. I think it's because I like a bit of romance in all my stories. And seeing both points of view helps me get to know them both.

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