Continuity and Chekov’s Gun – part of the editing process

It’s time to settle in and get some more work on this book done. I’m getting stuck into Act IV now: 10,000 words to edit; 10,000 words to write. That’s all that’s needed to get this draft finished.

Then I need to do a cover to cover reading with my notepad to make sure the continuity all comes together properly since it’s had so many turning point transformations over its many drafts so far.

For example, early in the book I killed off a character I later discovered is the primary antagonist and had to go back, resurrect her, and then track forward to make her still alive the whole way through. Opps!

I think the next scene I’m about to edit has me kill off another bad guy that I need to be alive in a later scene. I’ve also made mention to some things and I don’t think I’ve tied up their loose ends yet.

For example, there is a dagger earlier in the book that is jammed into a table, the police take it as evidence, and then… nothing. It’s not come up again. Either cut the dagger or use it (Chekov’s Gun).

So much to keep track of in a novel. It can be very confusing.

How is your writing/editing coming along?

Character Birthdays: Happy Birthday, Heros and Heroines

Happy Birthday Cake for Heroes, Heroines, and CharactersDo you know your when to wish your characters a happy birthday? Many writers neglect the most important day of their protagonist’s life. After all, if she was not born into your imaginary world, you wouldn’t be able to tell her story now. But there are stronger writing issues to consider when deciding your male and female characters celebrate their birthday.

Happy 29th, Again

What is your character’s attitude toward her birthday, and her age? Does she dread every passing year, or does she celebrate with a blow-out party that includes everyone she’s met in her life? When are the birthday’s of your character’s family? If you don’t know, you are missing out on a key area of characterization that you could explore.

More importantly, you may miss her birthday all together! If her birthday falls right into the middle of your story, your character wouldn’t completely forget. At the very least, she would comment to herself about how she is far too busy to go out with her friends this year. Perhaps she’ll miss visiting her parents, because she has now moved halfway across the country to start her new job. Are your character’s kids celebrating their birthdays with a crisis filled birthday party? Her new love interest may forget, and schedule his monthly golf game on the birthday weekend she expected him to take her to his beach side villa. Unless you know, your characters will never age, and gain the wisdom that comes with reflecting over the course of their lives so far.

What’s Your Sign?

Another consideration is that you or your characters may have an interest in exploring what their birthday stands for, in the universal scheme of things. Astrology and Numerology use a person’s birthday to determine their personality traits, and the possible issues they might have to deal with throughout their lives. If you are struggling to flesh out a character, you can look up their birthday, and discover how they might act in their relationships, careers, and home lives. If you don’t like what the results turn up, you can change their birthday to a different sign, and start over. Even if you don’t care about such things, your young college student heroine might read her horoscope every morning, and you ought to have an idea what it would say.

Other uses for birthdays include exploring what happened on that day in history. If your historical hero was born on the day the Civil War started, he would have a different upbringing than someone whose parents raised him during the Great Depression. Many websites and books have such “Day in the Life” descriptions, or you could scan old newspapers near your character’s real world hometown. Even less famous events could play into your character’s life, such as if she were born on the same day the water tower fell and flooded her home.

Planning For Other Character’s Birthdays

Even if your story covers a short amount of time, it is wise to know when all of your characters are born, not just your protagonist. She may be planning a surprise party for her best friend, when she suddenly loses her job and can’t afford to do so anymore. Your antagonist may decide to cause havoc on his birthday every year, because local bullies wrecked his 18th birthday party.

Birthdays are a great rite of passage that everyone goes through each year. It marks new growth, beginnings, and a chance to start life with a clean slate. Your characters could use these same milestones, to take your story in new and unexpected directions.

What do birthdays mean to you, and your stories? Have you explored how your characters react to growing a year older?

Editor’s Note: Know another birthday you shouldn’t forget? Writer’s Round-About! We’re turning 3 this month so come and win some prizes at our birthday bash.

Image credit: Dan Taylor

The Casting Couch for Character Development

Jessica Alba as Max in Dark Angel

Who Do You Want To Act The Role Of Your Protagonist?

An effective way to increase the connection you have to your characters is to sit on the casting couch. There are thousands of talented actors who could be cast into the role of your protagonist. Who would be their ideal counter and play the role of your antagonist? You could even select your supporting cast and run the credits through your mind.

Jessica Alba is going to play the lead role when they turn my current work-in-progress into a movie. Well, in a perfect world she would. Of course I’m sure she’ll love the script. It’s not finished yet but it’s going to be fantastic and it’ll be exactly what she’d want to do next. I picture it; I visualize and see her eagerness and anticipation. She knows the role is right for her and she’s looking forward to spending months in this characters skin.

Who will star in the book-to-movie adaptation of your novel?

As our characters develop during the writing process they grow in our mind. They start off as simple sketches. Insubstantial figments that act on strange whimsy. As we flesh out these strange creatures we discover personality, history, motivation, and depth. In time they take on a life of their own. We hear their voices in our heads and they begin to push the story rather than being resistant followers to our commands.

Visualizing these stars acting out your book can help you delve into character and story. With an actor in mind scenes become almost movie-like in the mind’s eye. As I write a scene I see Jessica Alba as my protagonist. She becomes my character. She mirrors her spunk and fire. Her dark hair and eyes reflect the sense of disturbed darkness within my character. I see the scene unfold as if I were watching in high-definition and surround sound.

Could Paul Walker be my next book's leading man?I haven’t cast my leading man yet. I’m considering Paul Walker but keeping my options open until someone feels “just right”. I find my hero much more difficult not only to picture in my mind’s eye but to feel and know. He’s still fragmented. I can’t “get” him. Perhaps that is why I haven’t been able to cast him. If I could find the perfect actor to play his part would I find myself more connected and attached. Who is this man and if any actor could play his part who would I choose?

Who would you cast in the movie of your novel? Does having your star in mind influence your writing and your sense of connection to your characters?

Pep Talk No. 16 – Welcoming Your Demons

Recently on Writer’s Round-About I talked about inner demons. Those nasty creatures that sit on our shoulder snarling negative propaganda about us and our writing. Well, they certainly sit on my shoulder but I’m sure there is a little demon with varied degree of power for each of us. Who is your little demon? Do you have just one or many?

Welcome Your Demons: Inner and OuterGeorge Singleton has a fantastic little pep-talk, number 16, in his book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds:

If it is true that the audience members applaud as a maestro takes the stage, or when an actor emerges from the wings, because they wish to rid the venue from spirits and demons, then please make sure that you never enter your writing space while clapping. In fiction writing, it may be best to have as many specters and demons perched in the rafters as possible.

What do you think George meant?



How Can Our Demons Help Us?

Demons, inner or otherwise, gain power through fear and intimidation. Their ability to scare creates emotional and sometimes physical reactions. Sometimes, fear hinders us, freezing us in place, but fear is also a natural and positive response.

Fear can cause an adrenaline release. Adrenaline lets us move faster, think faster, act faster. It speeds our responses, heightens our senses, and energizes our endorphins. By embracing the fear these demons create we can bring emotion onto the page and we are more likely to feel the emotion coming off the page as we write. It helps us develop the right tone and depth and gives us a positive boost in motivation and momentum.

Our demons also force us to be cautious. To examine options, evaluate choices. While this may be more hindrance than help in the first stages of writing, welcoming our demons in the editing stage is a must. It is their voice that helps us meticulously comb our manuscript for errors and inconsistencies.

Other Demons To Consider

Our inner demons are not the only ones who play a role in our writing. These demons are a creation of the mind. They are our brains way of compartmentalizing our fears and insecurities. Our ability to create inner demons is a sign of fertile imagination and creativity. These demons are not the only ones who accompany us during the writing process.

Your protagonists must have demons of their own. They can be real or imagined, inner demons, or physical demons. Readers tend to associate best with well-rounded, balanced, characters. Characters need to have flaws and weaknesses. They need to have room to grow. It is normal for characters to face fears of their own.

More literally they also have the demonic aspects of their mirror, the antagonist. The antagonist has demons also, and can be the dark element of the story, a demon in his own right.

Can you see the demons and specters that haunt the rafters of your writing place? What influence do they have on your work? How do they help you? Answer these questions in the comments!

SG1 Series Part Two: Character Development

Characters are an elemental part of every story. An intriguing plot with a good story-arc is important but without approachable characters your story will never connect with an audience. Readers need characters. Characters are the socket for your stories power supply. It is through your characters that readers can plug into the plot and experience the life of your story.

The Stargate series introduces a multitude of characters in various stages and of differing quality and consideration. Some play bit parts as extras or body count but others grow into the story, we come to love them or hate them, we come to care for the part they play in the story, their injuries and deaths bring anguish and grief or heartfelt cheers.


SG1 – Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal’c

The original SG1 is a team of four diverse characters. Their differences create an initial challenge; they struggle as a unit until they learn to use each others strengths to counter their own weaknesses. It shows the importance of bringing opposites together. These characters are unique in their own fields. It is their united purposes, each individual to their character, which brings them together. A bond is formed that gives this eclectic community a solid friendship. We see the bond develop and grow with the characters as the series progresses.

It is important to blend characters but avoid carbon copies. Each character should be unique and individual. Distinguish them with separate goals, established histories, areas of interest and technique.


The SGC and General Hammond

The Stargate Command is an entity in its own right. It is actually a collection of individuals that work in regulated ways to create a standardized base of operations. There are many faceless characters lead by the General. Most of the time we don’t connect with these individuals but General Hammond represents the unity. His personality molds the actions of the SGC.

Larger forces need a strong head character to represent their interests. Armies can seem like a long column of faceless men but a charismatic leader will show a distinguishing command of his forces. Each of his men is ultimately the voice of this man and a solid leader is one whose men will lay down their own lives to support the orders he puts forth. This is true of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ guys.


The Goa’uld

While the Goa’uld are a nasty bunch in their own right they are an ideal antagonist. They aren’t evil. They have solid reasoning and a collection of emotional reactions that allow readers to associate with them. The Goa’uld act entirely out of an arrogant sense of self preservation and domination. As a people (um… symbiotic race) they act with rational, intelligent thought. They are challenging but not insurmountable.

Antagonists should be normal people. You can create more impact with a sympathetic antagonist then with a diabolical freak. If a reader can see themselves in a protagonist you have a good story but if readers can see themselves to some small degree in the antagonist then you have a charged situation that will keep a reader tied to the outcome.

There are many more characters involved in the Stargate series. Each new person (or group of people) is shown in snippets. Base motivations appear and personality traits are revealed but characters always have an element that remains unseen. It is impossible to know everything and it is important that characters can still do something unexpected or unpredictable.

Over time, we get to know the main characters. Their own personal stories are revealed and delved into. The primary characters are challenged with personal situations forcing them to make choices that distinguish them. Whole episodes play a vital role in adding depth to these characters and introduce situations that push their qualities forward.

  • Use time in your story to slowly reveal your characters.
  • Allow their actions and reactions to portray the depth of their beliefs and desires.
  • Each scene should use your characters strengths and weaknesses.
  • 3D characters have sides we cannot see.
  • A characters relationships reveal vital clues to their personality.
  • Characters always continue to grow and change based on the situations that occur in each moment of their lives.

Finally, just because your story has reached ‘The End’ does not mean your characters have. Characters should still be imperfect in the final scene. Their growth remains incomplete. Some of your characters may have died but most will live on beyond your closing paragraph and while they began at one point and progressed to another in this story there should always be another world to save, another enemy to fight, another day to live and another dream to follow.

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