Thursday, 29 September 2011

Character Development

Character development is a different process for every writer.

How do you develop a character? How do you make them real, or three dimensional?

To develop a character a writer needs to be inside their head. In order for me to do this I need to write a character biography. In the beginning of a novel I write only the basics about my characters. But after a few chapters, I need to go back and add to their biographies. I ask questions about their background. Who their parents are? Do they have any brothers or sisters? Where they live? What they do? Are they happy and if not, why?

I interview them. This can be tricky because you have to answer the questions as your character. At times it can get confusing, but can also be fun.

By the end of the bio process I generally have four to five pages for each character.

As a writer you must understand your character. What would they say in certain situations? How would they act if caught in a dilemma? I always use the Who, What, When, Where and Why format when writing anything. I never stray from it while developing good characters and plot.

If your character is not believable to you, he will not be believable to your readers.

If you have a character who doesn’t behave the way he is supposed to, your reader will begin to question his integrity. This is a sure fire way to pull the reader from your book. AND you don’t want that. The rule also applies to plot. The story must be believable to be accepted by your readers.

A three dimensional character has all three things: thoughts, emotions and actions.

If I was to write:
John left for work in a hurry.
This statement doesn’t give the character any dimension. All it tells you is that he left for work in a hurry.

However, to write it this way does:
John woke to the sound of his alarm clock. He rolled out of bed, grabbed his ironed grey suit, and quickly dressed. With one shoe on, he headed out the door. “Damn, my boss is going to kill me.”
This adds dimension, it gives the reader insight into John’s character by showing his actions, emotions, and thoughts.

Your characters are going to evolve as your story does, but what makes them desirable is that they are real.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Car Trouble?

Flat tire? Engine problems? Some light on your dash board that won’t go off?
This happens to all of us, and unless you’re mechanically inclined you have no clue as to why the vehicle is dinging and flashing red signs every time
you turn it on. You do have the common sense to know something is wrong and take it to the dealership or mechanics.

But what do you do when they tell you there’s nothing wrong with your car? Persist and ask them to check again? Leave it for the next time when you’re stranded on the highway in -30 and a blizzard?
If you argue and insist they check your car thoroughly, nine times out of ten they will come back with what they think the problem is.
And you will fix it.
So you’ve just replaced some hose, belt, or fan (I’m just throwing words out there) that were never broken. And then guess what? You’re back within a few weeks with the same dilemma that brought you there earlier.

A couple months ago I took my van in because the power locks were going crazy; unlocking and locking while I was driving. Sometimes they’d stay locked and I couldn’t get in. This usually ended bad, as I’d try to climb in through the back hatch, or passenger door, often hurting myself or innocent bystanders (my children)

The man took my keys and sent me on my way, assuring me that they’d find the problem. An hour and a half later my doors miraculously fixed themselves, but my transmission needed to be flushed, tires rotated, oil changed, plugs and other gadgets needed to be replaced, oh and Mrs Flannery, you have 5% of your brakes left.

WHAT??? My brakes work fine. In fact I came to a complete stop this morning when that cat ran out in front of me. And I did stop at every red light on my way to the dealership.
Tires rotated? Oil Changed? Transmission flushed? My mind was racing.
I knew that the salesman or “fixer fellow” was just doing his job, but come on! My van wasn’t a jalopy. Sure there was bubble gum on the seats, and a pop stain near the back row, but I did regular oil changes, and tire rotations. I maintained the vehicle underneath the hood.

I cleared my throat and politely asked, “How much will all of this cost?”

“$900.00 or a little more, depending on the type of brakes you put on. But I do recommend something towards the top of the line. They last longer and are more durable.”

Well, of course he does! Why wouldn’t he recommend the best brakes? He works on commission. The more he sells, the more he’s paid. As I chewed on my bottom lip I pondered what my next step should be. After all, I had no intentions of paying for anything, the power doors were still under warranty.

After much deliberation (a cup of coffee and a quick call to my husband) I dropped the keys on the counter of the sales department and said, “How much will you give me for it?”


Monday, 5 September 2011

In Their Own Words The Girl's of Atsikana Pa Ulendo Tell Their Stories

I was introduced to Atsikana Pa Ulendo in 2009, when I was asked by Roberta Laurie, the other half of Prairie Dog Publishing, to help the Rotary Club market for Memory and Christie’s tour. I had heard Memory speak the year before, and I remember being shocked when she read off the statistics of what a young girl living in Malawi’s life would be like without an education. As I looked around the room of more than a hundred people I thought, none of us ever have to worry about being married at fourteen, a fear of exploitation, no rights, and the great possibility of getting HIV/AIDS.

These issues are not a part of our culture in Canada. Whether male or female you have the choice of education, the freedom to vote, the voice to speak out against sexual harassment and assault.
These girls have none of those things.

It broke my heart. I wanted to help make a difference and so Roberta and I brainstormed for a way to do so. When Roberta traveled to Malawi with the intention of asking for stories from the girls, I knew there was a chance she wouldn’t be able to get them. The girls were busy with their studies and chores at the school. But when she returned with a brief case full of the girls hand written stories I knew this book was going to be completed.

With compassion and excitement we were able to mould this project into what it is today. Throughout the year we’ve put countless hours into edits, proofreading, layout, and the marketing of this book so that we may evoke passion within you, our readers.

Even though I’ve never met these girls, I am proud of each of them. They have beaten the odds; they have overcome discrimination, while holding their heads high. Within this book, the girls of Atsikana Pa Ulendo, have given us a gift. Through their own words they have allowed us a glimpse into who they are.

Our mission at Prairie Dog Publishing is to change the world one book at a time, and this book has changed me. It has opened my eyes to the problems within our world. I only hope In Their Own Words; The Girl’s of Atsikana Pa Ulendo Tell Their Stories, will change you too.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book will go to Atsikana Pa Ulendo.

Prairie Dog Publishing