Some study tips for lazy students like me:

Make an aesthetic study table, get everything you need so you don’t need to get up repeatedly. Keep everything on your table organised and aesthetically pleasing.

Before you start, skim through all the content you plan to study. Try learning the challenging concepts first. Don’t miss out on anything, make a checklist.

Timetables suck. Keep a clock on your study table and keep adjusting your time e.g you finish half a chapter in an hour then add another hour and 15 minutes to complete and the rest revise at the end.

codyswritings  asked:

I recently read your "What NOT to do with Assassin's" post, and wanted to ask you about them. I'm writing a story that revolves around a team of superpowered assassin's on the hunt from their organization because their latest target was a friend of theirs. They refuse to kill her, and the organization attempts to kill them. I don't know if this falls under the same category as "Biting the Hand that Feeds" or "The Atoning Assassin," but if it does, is there anyway I can make it sound better?

I’ll give you a piece of advice that’s going to save you a lot of trouble.

Tropes are descriptive. They’re not prescriptive.

TVTropes is helpful for analysis, or finding research materials. It’s helpful for figuring out what you have and what you want. It’s not puzzle pieces. If you get too caught up in them, they will own you. You’ll end up writing to them or find yourself stuck trying to get away from them instead of telling your story.

Your work is going to go through many drafts as it evolves, you’re going to change things, switch it around. It is the rare writer who churns out a perfect draft on every hit, and they’re the novelists who put out a book every ten years.

The first draft is often made of cliches, and it will seem like you’re holding a piece of coal. There’s insecurity, fear, worries about what we have and if anyone will ever want to read it. Everything is exciting and then it seems awful. When everything feels black, remember: you’ve got a diamond.

You’ve just got to put the work into polishing it. We must always begin at the beginning, which is one of the most crucial times in your creative life. (The other being the Middle). So, write the damn thing first.

When we get stuck on “is it good enough?” (and most of us do), we end up ignoring the part where we need to do in the storytelling. Give yourself time to think of ways to get past the cliches and flesh out your characters as you pursue your narrative.

There are plot twists behind the plot twists you haven’t even dreamed of yet. Give yourself a chance to get there.

Go to sites like TVTropes last instead of first, wait until you have a novel written and you’re preparing for other drafts. When you want to be able to describe what you have, because you know what it is rather than what its going to be.

As creatives, we’ve no guarantee that the story we envision in our heads is the one that ends up on the page. If we end up getting stuck fighting with it or running from it, then we’ll never get anywhere. Just let it out.

You’ve got plenty of time to make the whole thing sound better after the fact.

After all, draft number one isn’t the end. It’s another beginning. You’ve got miles more to go. Those miles will strip away the ugly, the cliche, the fears, and everything else in between.

Forget the tropes. Just do it.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

anonymous asked:

would you mind giving tips n tricks for how to write kiss scenes? i just dont really know what to say in them other than he/she pulled him/her into a kiss. how would i go about expanding this? :0

Sure! (And wow - I wrote a lot about this!

Writing a Kiss

1. Emotional context to frame the description
2. Body/hands/physical descriptions
3. Description of the kiss (The kiss is a journey! It has a start, a middle, and an end!)
4. The feelings and emotions generated by the kiss.
5. You can break up or frame the scene with dialogue and thought if needed.


1. I start with emotions/scenarios to frame my kisses - is it a hungry kiss? Demanding? Gentle? Teasing? Loving? And I use these emotions to branch out into what kind of descriptions I’ll use. (Eg. a gentle kiss might have feathery light touches, while a desperately hungry kiss might have one person clutching the other to them tightly; their fingers digging into their shoulders with the force of their need.)

2. Next I’ll go with the body and hands. Are they pressed together? Is one person’s hands roving over the other person’s body? If so, what are they touching, squeezing, scratching, clinging to, etc. Are they  grinding together, pressed so tightly they seem to almost be one person? Or are they tentative and careful, keeping their distance?

3. Then I’ll describe the kiss. Sometimes the kiss starts slowly; a gentle press of their lips. Sometimes one person’s mouth catches the other’s. Does the kiss start chaste with lots of small kisses? Does one person tease the other person’s mouth open? Is it a tongue kiss? If it’s a really passionate kiss, are their tongues dancing against one another? Sliding? Swirling together? Do they tease one another with flicks of their tongues? Do they nibble? Do they pressed kisses along the jaw? To the tip of the nose? (Think very physical descriptions here - but very evocative and sensual too!)

4. What about their feelings? How does the kiss make them feel? Hot and bothered? Tingly? Melting? Burning? Repulsed? Lol. The way they feel is so important! Because it should dictate when the kiss ends and what happens afterwards.

5. Also, remember to think about how to break up the kiss if you need to. Eg. Are they speaking in between kisses? Thinking anything? You can include dialogue or thought to break up the kiss or direct where it goes. 

So yeah … that’s kind of my process for writing kisses! I hope this helps.

everafterflawless  asked:

Hi! Do you have an advice or resources on writing a character arc. I fear my characters might not be fleshed out as much or does not have as much importance. I would really like to know how to make a Character arc. Thanks!!

Of course! I just answered a question here that I think will help in terms of character arc. Every character, no matter how minor, should have an arc, meaning that where they end up in the story is not where they begin–unless their refusal to move is the story. If they remain stubborn in their ways, that has to be part of the plot and pivotal to the story: the character that refuses to change is a story in itself, but it should be acknowledged and necessary rather than a side-effect of you forgetting about them while writing. 

Every event in our lives shapes us in some way, making us different people at the end of the event than we were when it began. Characters need to grow or they need to fall. And it doesn’t always have to be big–a man who starts off innocent and ends up a criminal, for example–but it should be different: someone who begins the story bitter and angry at his family but who, after having a child of his own, realizes how hard his parents worked to raise him, might, for example, be an arc of changing mentality. 

Even side characters should have some development, and it can be small, but in order to know if it’s “important” as you say, you should ask yourself: does your character have motivation for doing whatever they do in the story? Do they learn something? Do they change? If the answers are yes, then it’s likely you’ve found your arc!

Here are some more resources I think will help:

Beginner writers, don’t despair.

When you’re first starting out as a writer, you assume you have one good story inside you. Maybe 500 words? Maybe 2,000? 20,000 at most?

But then you start writing dozens of flash fics and short stories. You realize you have hundreds of stories in your brain.

Then, you write a novel. You write draft 1. Wow! Even if the quality is your worst work in years, you wrote 70,000? 80,000? 90,000 words? 

Then, you write the following drafts. The writing improves. You flesh it out. Maybe you added 20,000 words. 

You start wondering about publishing houses, query letters. You write query letters and actually send them

For a while, no one gets back to you. After some perseverance, and maybe more edits to your novel, you get an agent. You get a deal.

To think, you started off unsure of whether you would ever write 5,000 consecutive high-quality words. 

anonymous asked:

I have this really vivid scene in my head where (this isn't actually a fight scene, more a bullying scene), from standing, character A knocks B into a wall (hitting his head into it and sending him to a sitting position), punches him in the face a couple times which causes a lot of blood, then (using B's hair) slams his head on the wall a second time. Is this a reasonable sequence (assuming B doesn't resist very meaningfully), and what sort of short-term and long-term damage would this do to B?

If you have a really vivid scene in your head, the kind that doesn’t let you go, then you should write it. Doesn’t really matter whether it’s right or wrong, good for the story or bad, or realistic or not.

It’s what you want.

Reason can be the bane of creativity, disrupts the flow, and can kill ingenuity.  Basically, it’s for every draft but the first.

So, go for it. See where you end up. Then, come back, if you feel you need to. Go through the tags about punches to the face and weaknesses in the skull, and decide if the level of violence you have in your scene matches your character’s intentions.

And, you know what, it actually might.

I’ve had plenty of characters on a first draft fight scene look at me three drafts later with a shit-eating grin and go, “yeah, I meant to do it exactly like that.”

Then, there’s the ones who go, “I didn’t, but that’s great.”

And, of course, the occasional screaming, “AHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

I’m a monster, oh noes.

What’s most important about figuring out how to write violence is the level of violence you want, so you can figure out what you’re saying about your character or what your character is expressing about themselves. This helps you further your story, and ultimately tell one that’s honest about how where it lines itself up.

Like every other kind of writing, fight scenes are a part of your story and should work in concert with it. However, all that is for other drafts. The first one is just you telling yourself the story.

So, write it down.

Get it out.

Fix it as needed later.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

Heads up for fic writers

Naming no names BUT I do not need to know once a paragraph what colour someone’s eyes are. You can just say ‘x looked at y’ sometimes, and it’s perfectly ok. Chocolate globes don’t need to meet caramel orbs for me to get that they’re looking at each other.

Writing Tips #10: Character Motivation

Greetings, fellow writers, and welcome back to another installment of Writing Tips! Today we’ll be discussing character motivation: what is it, why it’s important, and how you can apply it to your writing.

Motivation is the aspect of a character which drives them to act and directs their choices throughout the story. As such, it is one of the most critical areas of character creation.

For me, my characters tend not to come alive until I’ve spent some time writing from their perspective. Things like history/personality emerge gradually, then get threaded back through the book more fully in revision. However, there are certain things you want to establish early on in your process. At the top of this list is motivation: if you cannot identify your POV character’s primary motivation within the first few scenes, you don’t know that character well enough. If your readers cannot identify your POV character’s primary motivation within the first few scenes, they’re likely to put the book down.

You can approach this from a number of different angles, but for today, let’s examine a list of critical motivation-related questions to consider.

1. What is your character’s primary goal for the story? Or, what is your character trying to accomplish? This is the most basic consideration, but the more specificity you can inject into your answer, the easier it’ll be to develop a solid base of motivation in your characters.

Let’s look at Zuko, from Avatar: the Last Airbender. His primary goal is established very early on: he wants to restore his honor. Now, that’s fine goal in itself, but as the series progresses, this straightforward goal gains depth and nuance. He doesn’t just want to regain his honor. He wants to return home. He wants his banishment to end. He wants his father’s love and acceptance. “Regaining his honor” encapsulates all of these individual motivations (or so he thinks), which is why he pursues this goal so fiercely throughout the first two seasons.

The fewer primary goals a character has, the more depth and specificity each of those goals requires. That said, be aware that goals and motivations are not the same thing. The goal is the what. The motivation is the why. So with that in mind …

2. Why does your character want what they want? This question might be implied by your answer to the first question, or it might be something you have to work out separately. Either way, this question deals with the very core of your character’s motivation, and thus requires special consideration.

Using the same example as above, we can see that the root of Zuko’s desire to regain his honor is to acquire the love/acceptance of his father. Those other sub-motivations factor in, but when you get right down to the core of his character, the “I want to regain my honor” statement is actually just a cover for “I want my father’s love.” (although it could also be argued that his core motivation is “I want to have a destiny,” depending on how you interpret his character).

Often, the “why” is implied, rather than outright stated. In many cases, the character can’t even articulate this aspect of their motivation for themselves, as it exists on an almost subconscious level. But you as the author must know the answer to this, otherwise your characters’ stated motivations/goals are going to ring hollow.

3. What is your character willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals/satisfy their motivations? In other words, how far is your character willing to go  to get what they want? What moral/social/emotional compromises are they willing to make, and will there be anything left of them once they’ve sacrificed these things?

In Avatar: the Last Airbender, Zuko makes a number of bitter sacrifices to achieve his goal. He spends three years at sea, searching for the Avatar. He at one point sabotages Zhao, a rival antagonist, to keep the Avatar out of Zhao’s hands, even though in doing so he is working against the interests of his nation. And finally, when given the choice between returning home with his honor restored and betraying his uncle, who has been a surrogate father to him since his banishment, Zuko chooses treachery. 

The severity of sacrifices your character has to make should be proportionate to how important their motivation is to who they are. That moment when your hero has to choose between getting what they want and doing the right thing is often the most powerful moment of the story. No matter their choice, the consequences should be huge.

Note: your character’s choice should also fit with the promises you’ve made earlier in the story. You don’t want to set up an epic Hero’s Journey, then have it end with your character choosing selfishness. Conversely, if you have a dark, gritty story, having your character made the wrong choice might be just the thing to make your ending work.

4. Will fulfilling their primary motivation actually make this character happy? The answer to this question will depend heavily on the type of story you’re writing, but let’s have another look at our example first.

After the betrayal of his uncle, Zuko returns home as an honored hero, but it swiftly becomes clear that it’s a hollow victory. Although he now has everything he ever wanted–his home, his honor, his father’s acceptance–he remains unfulfilled. His anger at himself and the cognitive dissonance which arises from the choices he’s made eventually lead him to turn his back on his father and join the Avatar, allowing him to truly redeem himself, thus earning far greater satisfaction and happiness in the end.

With many characters, the fulfillment of their primary motivation may be your story’s happy ending. In other cases, the sacrifices needed to reach that goal make the ending bittersweet. And often, the fulfillment of a given character’s motivation comes in an unexpected form, satisfying the underlying desires even if the character’s stated goals are not accomplished. By examining the goals, motivations, choices, and consequences of your characters, you’ll be able to build a richer, more satisfying story.

Thanks again for reading. If you found this lesson helpful, feel free to reblog it or leave a comment below. If you have any questions about this topic (or any other writing-related topic), just let me know. If it’s a good question, it might even inspire its own lesson. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the next one.

Words to replace said, except this actually helps

I got pretty fed up with looking for words to replace said because they weren’t sorted in a way I could easily use/find them for the right time. So I did some myself.

IN RESPONSE TO
Acknowledged
Answered
Protested

INPUT/JOIN CONVERSATION/ASK
Added
Implored
Inquired
Insisted
Proposed
Queried
Questioned
Recommended
Testified

GUILTY/RELUCTANCE/SORRY
Admitted
Apologized
Conceded
Confessed
Professed

FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Advised
Criticized
Suggested

JUST CHECKING
Affirmed
Agreed
Alleged
Confirmed

LOUD
Announced
Chanted
Crowed

LEWD/CUTE/SECRET SPY FEEL
Appealed
Disclosed
Moaned

ANGRY FUCK OFF MATE WANNA FIGHT
Argued
Barked
Challenged
Cursed
Fumed
Growled
Hissed
Roared
Swore

SMARTASS
Articulated
Asserted
Assured
Avowed
Claimed
Commanded
Cross-examined
Demanded
Digressed
Directed
Foretold
Instructed
Interrupted
Predicted
Proclaimed
Quoted
Theorized

ASSHOLE
Bellowed
Boasted
Bragged

NERVOUS TRAINWRECK
Babbled
Bawled
Mumbled
Sputtered
Stammered
Stuttered

SUAVE MOTHERFUCKER
Bargained
Divulged
Disclosed
Exhorted

FIRST OFF
Began

LASTLY
Concluded
Concurred

WEAK PUSY
Begged
Blurted
Complained
Cried
Faltered
Fretted

HAPPY/LOL
Cajoled
Exclaimed
Gushed
Jested
Joked
Laughed

WEIRDLY HAPPY/EXCITED
Extolled
Jabbered
Raved

BRUH, CHILL
Cautioned
Warned

ACTUALLY, YOU’RE WRONG
Chided
Contended
Corrected
Countered
Debated
Elaborated
Objected
Ranted
Retorted

CHILL SAVAGE
Commented
Continued
Observed
Surmised

LISTEN BUDDY
Enunciated
Explained
Elaborated
Hinted
Implied
Lectured
Reiterated
Recited
Reminded
Stressed

BRUH I NEED U AND U NEED ME
Confided
Offered
Urged

FINE
Consented
Decided

TOO EMO FULL OF EMOTIONS
Croaked
Lamented
Pledged
Sobbed
Sympathized
Wailed
Whimpered

JUST SAYING
Declared
Decreed
Mentioned
Noted
Pointed out
Postulated
Speculated
Stated
Told
Vouched

WASN’T ME
Denied
Lied

EVIL SMARTASS
Dictated
Equivocated
Ordered
Reprimanded
Threatened

BORED
Droned
Sighed

SHHHH IT’S QUIET TIME
Echoed
Mumbled
Murmured
Muttered
Uttered
Whispered

DRAMA QUEEN
Exaggerated
Panted
Pleaded
Prayed
Preached

OH SHIT
Gasped
Marveled
Screamed
Screeched
Shouted
Shrieked
Yelped
Yelled

ANNOYED
Grumbled
Grunted
Jeered
Quipped
Scolded
Snapped
Snarled
Sneered

ANNOYING
Nagged

I DON’T REALLY CARE BUT WHATEVER
Guessed
Ventured

I’M DRUNK OR JUST BEING WEIRDLY EXPRESSIVE FOR A POINT/SARCASM
Hooted
Howled
Yowled

I WONDER
Pondered
Voiced
Wondered

OH, YEAH, WHOOPS
Recalled
Recited
Remembered

SURPRISE BITCH
Revealed

IT SEEMS FAKE BUT OKAY/HA ACTUALLY FUNNY BUT I DON’T WANT TO LAUGH OUT LOUD
Scoffed
Snickered
Snorted

BITCHY
Tattled
Taunted
Teased

Edit: People, I’m an English and creative writing double major in college; I understand that there’s nothing wrong with simply using “said.” This was just for fun, and it comes in handy when I need to add pizzazz. 

Writing Tip: Don’t Be Afraid of Mixing Dialogue and Action

So I’ve been reading a lot of amateur writing lately, and I’ve noticed what seems to be a common problem: dialogue. 

Tell me if this looks familiar. You start writing a conversation, only to look down and realize it reads like: 

“I’m talking now,” he said. 

“Yes, I noticed,” she said. 

“I have nothing much to add to this conversation,” the third person said. 

And it grates on your ears. So much ‘said.’ It looks awful! It sounds repetitive. So, naturally, you try to shake it up a bit: 

“Is this any better?” He inquired. 

“I’m not sure,” she mused. 

“I definitely think so!” that other guy roared. 

This is not an improvement. This is worse. 

Now your dialogue is just as disjointed as it was before, but you have the added problem of a bunch of distracting dialogue verbs that can have an unintentionally comedic effect. 

So here’s how you avoid it: You mix up the dialogue with description. 

“Isn’t this better?” he asked, leaning forward in his seat. “Don’t you feel like we’re more grounded in reality?” 

She nodded, looking down at her freshly manicured nails. “I don’t feel like a talking head anymore.” 

“Right!” that annoying third guy added. “And now you can get some characterization crammed into the dialogue!” 

The rules of dialogue punctuation are as follows: 

  • Each speaker gets his/her own paragraph - when the speaker changes, you start a new paragraph. 
  • Within the speaker’s own paragraph, you can include action, interior thoughts, description, etc. 
  • You can interrupt dialogue in the middle to put in a “said” tag, and then write more dialogue from that same speaker. 
  • You can put the “said” tag at the beginning or end of the sentence. 
  • Once you’ve established which characters are talking, you don’t need a “said” tag every time they speak. 
  • ETA: use a comma instead of a period at the end of a sentence of dialogue, and keep the ‘said’ tag in lower caps. If you end on a ? or !, the ‘said’ tag is still in lower case. (thanks, commenters who pointed this out!) 

Some more examples: 

“If you’re writing an incomplete thought,” he said, “you put a comma, then the quote mark, then the dialogue tag.” 

“If the sentence ends, you put in a period.” She pointed at the previous sentence. “See? Complete sentences.” 

“You can also replace the dialogue tag with action.” Extra guy yawned. “When you do, you use a period instead of a comma.”

So what do you do with this newfound power? I’m glad you asked. 

  • You can provide description of the character and their surroundings in order to orient them in time and space while talking. 
  • You can reveal characterization through body language and other nonverbal cues that will add more dimension to your dialogue. 
  • You can add interior thoughts for your POV character between lines of dialogue - especially helpful when they’re not saying quite what they mean. 
  • You can control pacing. Lines of dialogue interrupted by descriptions convey a slower-paced conversation. Lines delivered with just a “said” tag, or with no dialogue tag at all, convey a more rapid-fire conversation. 

For example: 

“We’ve been talking about dialogue for a while,” he said, shifting in his seat as though uncomfortable with sitting still. 

“We sure have,” she agreed. She rose from her chair, stretching. “Shall we go, then?” 

“I think we should.” 

“Great. Let’s get out of here.” 

By controlling the pacing, you can establish mood and help guide your reader along to understanding what it is that you’re doing. 

I hope this helps you write better dialogue! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to drop me an ask :)

The 10 Elements of a MAIN CHARACTER

To all the writers who have ever been told “Your characters have to be three dimensional!” or “They should be well-rounded!” and just felt like saying: “What does that even MEAN?! What goes into a 3-dimensional character? Specifically? And how do you go about creating one?!”

Good news. There’s a way. 

Great main characters – heroes, protagonists, deuteragonist, whatever you want to call them – have ten things in common. Ten things that are easily developed, once you know what to create within your character. So no one will ever be able to tell you “needs to be more three dimensional!” ever again. Ha. 

1) Weaknesses: Main characters should be flawed, but I’m not saying this because it will make them more realistic (though it will) – I’m saying they need to be flawed because if they’re not, they shouldn’t be a main character. Story is another word for change, or more accurately, character growth. Not character as in “fictional person”, character meaning “heart and soul”. Story is someone’s character changing, for better or worse. Main characters at the beginning of the story are lacking something vital, some knowledge of themselves, some knowledge of how to live a better life, and this void is ruining their lives. They must overcome these weaknesses, if they’re going to become complete, and reach a happy ending. There are two types of weaknesses: Psychological and Moral. Psychological ones only hurt the main character. Moral ones cause the main character to hurt other people. Easy.  

2) Goal: Characters exist because they want something. Desiring something, and the fight against opposition for that desire, is the lifeblood of story; and because character is story, it’s also desire that can breathe life into words on a page, and begin the process of creating a real person in a reader’s mind. It’s this ‘desire for something’ that sparks that first connection between reader and character. It makes us think “Well, now I have to find out if this person gets what they want.” This is a powerful link. (How many mediocre movies do we suffer through, when we could easily stop watching, because we’re still trapped by that question of “what happens?”) So if this is powerful enough to keep people watching an annoying movie, imagine how powerful it can be in an excellent story. 

Like in Up, the goal is to get the house to Paradise Falls.

3) Want: If the main character wants something, they want it for a darn good reason. Usually, they think that attaining the goal will fill the void they can sense in their lives, the deficiency they can feel, but don’t know how to fix. And they’re almost always wrong. Getting the goal doesn’t help anything; which is why, while pursuing that goal, they discover a deeper need that will heal them. Which brings us to …

4) Need/Elixir: Main characters are missing something, a weakness in their innermost selves is causing them to live a less-than-wonderful life. Through story, these main characters can be healed. Once they discover what’s missing, and accept it, and change the way they live to include this truth they’ve uncovered … they’re healed. Learning this truth, whatever it is, forms the purpose of the story for the main character. The reader, and the character, think the story is about achieving that big tangible goal the premise talks about; really, underneath it all, the story is about someone achieving a big intangible truth, that will ultimately save their life and future. Often, this need is exactly what the character fears or professes to hate. 

Like Finding Nemo, where Dory states exactly what Marlin needs to learn. 

5) Ghosts: 

Not this kind of ghosts.

Ghosts are events in your character’s past which mark the source of their weaknesses and strengths. Because these happened, the character became who they are. All we need to know about backstory are these moments, because who the character became is all we care about. There’s really only one ghost you absolutely need: the source of their moral and psychological weakness. Something happened that knocked the character’s world off kilter, and everything from that moment onward has been tainted by what happened. This moment haunts them (hence the name), and holds them back from uncovering that need that will heal their weaknesses. Pixar are masters of this: the source of Carl being stuck in the past, curmudgeonly, unable of loving anyone new? Ellie dying; his ghost. In Finding Nemo, the source of Marlin being suffocating, protective to the point of being harmful, possessive, and fearful? His wife and 99% of his children being eaten in front of him; his ghost. 

6) True Character: These are the strengths, values, convictions, fears, faults, beliefs, worldview, and outlook on life that make the main character who they truly are. 

7) Characterization: This is everything on the surface of a main character. The way they look, talk, act, etc. All of this originates from those deeper elements of their being, the strengths, values, ghosts, weaknesses, needs, that make them who they truly are. So often, you can think of this as a facade they’re projecting, a way to shield the the truth about themselves, how they wish to be perceived. The story, and the other characters, are slowly going to see deeper than this characterization, revealing more and more of the reasons it is the way it is. 

8) Arc: If the character is going to change from “Incomplete Person” to “Complete Person” there’s going to be a journey they go on to make that possible. The external story, the pursuit of that big tangible goal the premise is about, is causing an inner journey to take place. What they have to do in pursuit of that external goal will apply pressure to those weaknesses, and pressure causes change. This process has seven steps, but if I write it all here this post is going to be obscenely long. So I might wait and give this its own post.

9) Changed Person: Who is the character going to be at the end of this story? They better be different, or else the story didn’t work. How do they show how different they’ve become? What is the moral choice they make, that spins their trajectory from “the future doesn’t look so great” to “happily ever after”? This should be known right away, maybe even before anything else is settled about the character. This gives a distinct end goal, a way to work backwards, a destination in mind that you can navigate towards.  

10) Fascination and Illumination: The surface characterization, and the brief glimpses of the true character underneath create curiosity in the reader/audience. What the character says, and the implied subtext beneath the dialogue, creates a puzzle the audience wants to solve. Actions they take work the same way; if the writer indicates there’s deeper motivation behind why a character behaves in the way they do, we buy into solving that mystery right away. We can’t help it. “Who are you really? Why are you the way you are? And how is that going to effect the story?” These are all the unspoken, almost not consciously acknowledged, questions that fascinating characters provoke. Searching out meaning, connecting the dots to find the truth – we can’t resist this. We’re not fascinated by tons of backstory and exposition about a character; we’re fascinated by story, by mystery, by the technique of withholding information and having to interpret and hunt out the truth on our own.  So gradually, the story and the characters will force that character to reveal a little more, and a little more, until we have a complete picture of who this person is. Crucial that this information isn’t told up front. Gradually illuminate it. It’s just like getting to know a real person. 

So how does this work in a real character? Let’s take a look at Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert, because almost everybody has seen that movie. 

Moral Weaknesses: He’s selfish. He’s a little greedy. He’s a little rude. He uses his charisma and bravado to keep people at a distance from the real him. 

Psychological Weaknesses: Insecurity, fear of vulnerability, feels like the real him (Eugene) would be unwanted, unlovable, and have nothing – just like when he was an orphaned kid. Also, he doesn’t know who he wants to be, what he wants to live for. 

Goal: Flynn wants to get that crown. So he has to get Blondie to see the floating lights, so she’ll give it back to him, and then they can part ways as unlikely friends.  

Want: Why does he want the crown? What does it mean for him? He actually states it (reluctantly) in song: “I have dreams like you, no really. Just much less touchy feely. They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny. On an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone. Surrounded by enormous piles of money.” He senses there’s something off in his life, something is missing. But he mistakenly believes this missing piece is money, which will allow him to buy a lonely island, where he can live out his days as Flynn and no one will ever know Eugene. 

Need: “All those days chasing down a daydream. All those years living in a blur. All that time never truly seeing, things the way they were. Now she’s here, shining in the starlight. Now she’s here, suddenly I know. If she’s here, it’s crystal clear, I’m where I’m meant to go.” He wants a crown … he needs to fall in love with Rapunzel. He needs to love something more than himself, and find out that love isn’t something to fear and push away. He needs to abandon the 'Tales of Flynnagin Rider’ ambition, and get a more worthwhile, new dream. 

Ghost: The source of all of his weaknesses can be linked to his “little bit of a downer” childhood as an orphan. Interestingly, he isn’t aware of another facet of that ghost, and Rapunzel points it out to him. “Was he a thief too?” she asks. He looks taken aback, before answering “Uh, no.” Something’s gone wrong. The choices he’s making are not living up to that original role model.  

Characterization: Flynn’s charming, funny, smart, charismatic, and arrogant (in a somehow charming sort of way). He’s also rude, contemptuous, and sarcastic. All traits that help him keep up that 'swashbuckling rogue’ facade, and push people away from the real him. 

True Character: Underneath all that, he’s a Disney prince. That pretty much sums it up.  

Changed Person: “Started going by Eugene again, stopped thieving, and basically turned it all around.” He started the story as the guarded and evasive Flynn, he ends as the selfless and thoroughly-in-love Eugene. 

Fascination and Illumination: Imagine if everything about Flynn had been told, right up front. We know he’s an orphan, we know he’s upheld a fake reputation, we know he’s a kind and loving guy underneath it all, we even know about his “tales of Flynnagin” childhood dream. You know what happens? We like him … but we’re not interested in him. There’s nothing we need to find out. There’s no curiosity. And if there’s no curiosity, and nothing being illuminated, your story’s not going anywhere. So instead, we find out – alongside Rapunzel – more about Flynn as the story progresses. And that is how it should be. 

So!

Developing characters in this way, I’ve found, really reduces worries about how “well-rounded” and three dimensional I’ve made them. They feel real to me. And besides helping me create characters, this ten element technique has also let me analyze characters I like, which is strangely fun. It’s a great way to figure out why a character works, what causes them to be so effective, and how you can go about creating them yourself. 

Yeah, I’m a bit of a nerd. 

But if you want, try it out. Develop a character. Analyze a character. You might find it as useful/fun as I do.

The 8 Steps of a CHARACTER ARC

You know that moment as a writer, when you’ve been charging through the story, high on how fantastic it is, and then suddenly…it all STOPS.  The next scene doesn’t form in your head. You’ve got nothing. 

Behind your characters, a string of bright and captivating scenes mark the trail of that rocket of inspiration; ahead of your characters, a foggy expanse, stretching to who-knows-where, a few shapeless blobs that should be scenes floating in the nothingness. The rocket is dead, and not refueling any time soon.

Well, to everybody who’s suffered this, or is currently suffering it, there’s a way to navigate through that fog. A map. Directions and a destination.

Or, more specifically, events that form the underlying structure of the story. 

This post is going to focus on one facet of story structure: character arc. Structure is something people subconsciously recognize and expect, and if the story doesn’t match those expectations, they feel cheated (though usually can’t explain why). Every good story follows a structure. So if you know structure, you’ll always know where to go next, and won’t get lost in the fog. 

So here are the 8 steps of a character arc:

1) Hero: Strength, Weakness, and Need

This happens in the setup of the story, when the main character’s ordinary world is being introduced. First, the main character’s strengths must be displayed; we must be given a reason to like them, or if not exactly “like” them, empathize with them, and be fascinated by them. The reader needs to bond with the character, feel concerned about how it all turns out for them. Or in other words, feel that the main character is worth experiencing the story. There are easy traits that do this: courage, love, humor, being in danger, being unfairly treated, being highly skilled at something, having a powerful noble goal. (Courage is the one they all need. If the character doesn’t have the gumption to actively pursue what they want, they are automatically a background character.) 

After this, still in the beginning of your story, let the character exhibit what needs to change. Show their weaknesses of character and self awareness.
And lastly, hint at what they NEED to learn. Sometimes this is even stated to the character, and they don’t understand it, refuse to believe it, or condemn it. Like “A Christmas Carol”, when Scrooge’s nephew says his speech about Christmas and how wonderful it is, and Scrooge replies “Bah Humbug!" 

2) Desire: This is the moment when the character knows what they need to pursue, in order to obtain what they inwardly want. It is not the inciting incident or catalyst, the event in a story that disrupts the ordinary world and calls the hero on an adventure. This is a separate step entirely, occurring after that catalyst has shattered life as the main character knows it. They believe obtaining this goal will calm whatever inner turmoil or conflict they’re battling. And always, they’re not quite right.
Think of Mr Fredricksen: His goal is to get the house – a  symbolic representation of Ellie and the life he shared with her – to Paradise Falls, which he believes will heal his grief and guilt. It won’t. Once he obtains it, the achievement feels hollow. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So on we go! 

3) Plan: Once in Act Two, the character is going to scramble for a plan of action. The inner want has solidified into a tangible goal, but they need a strategy to achieve it. This also spells out for the reader what to expect in that second act.  

4) Conflict: What’s going to try stopping them? A hero with a goal is one thing, but to make it a story we need something that stands in the way. An obstacle. A force of opposition. If we didn’t have obstacles, books would be as interesting as "Harry Potter and the Trip to the Grocery Store.” (Although honestly, I’d probably read that.) After the catalyst has changed everything, after the character crosses the threshold into Act Two, everything from here on out will be laden with conflict. This is usually when enemies, or more accurately forces of opposition, begin to appear. Everything is accumulating to complicate the main character’s pathway to achieving what they want. The forces of opposition come from not only the villains, but from the actions that have to be taken to achieve the desire. Whatever this action is, it’s exactly what the main character is not suited to do, an action that pressures their flaws, exposes them to exactly what they need to become but can’t right now. 

Like Stitch being forced to be the family dog. He’s not suited to this task.

5) Battle: The forces of opposition are amping up, growing stronger, fighting with greater intensity. The main character is taking the punches and working around them, relentlessly plowing forward. Hero and allies are usually punching back too.

6) Midpoint: This is the event where they first encounter what they need to learn, what they need to become. Something happens that forces them to behave in this new, life-saving way. But once they’ve seen it, they don’t know what to do with this knowledge. 

7) Dark Night, Revelation, Choice:
This is always the darkest point in the story, where all seems lost, and death – of a literal or spiritual nature – is in the air. And in this moment, something usually happens that makes the main character wake up to what is wrong, and what they need. More often than not, this revelation will arrive from the “love story” or relationship of the plot, and will be the thing that helps them pull themselves out of despair and see the light. And once this is uncovered, once the revelation of the truth about themselves is recognized, they are faced with a choice. Of course, they’ve been faced with choices in every beat of every scene, but this is the big choice that is going to determine if their story has a happy ending or a tragic one. The choice is this: “You are being faced the truth that you need to heal. Are you going to choose what you need, let your old self die, and become someone better?” And always, always, always this is a hard choice. The revelation must be significant to them. And it’s never easy. It can’t be. We don’t write stories about heroes who make easy choices. Villains have it easy. Are you going to adopt this new way of living, adopt this truth, and let your old self die? Or are you going to stay the way you are (which feels safer and is much less challenging) but end up stuck in a sort of living death? Most of the time, of course, they choose the right thing. 

This moment is usually always the saddest scene in the thing. Like this scene with Stitch.

8) New Life: This is their changed life. After experiencing the trials of the story, after realizing what they need and choosing to be reborn, they are going to be different people – and are going to live a different life. This is what follows the statement “And every day after …” What has changed? Show the audience how things are different, how things are better, because they want to see that. This is the resolution, the wrapping up of everything we’ve been through with the main character, and having this in the story is often what gives that feeling of satisfaction after seeing a really well-told story. 

So! To show off how this works, I’ve chosen the character arc of Carl from Up. 

1) Hero: Strengths, Weakness, Need

Strengths: Reasons to like Carl are packed into that heartbreaking opening sequence. By the end of it, we love him, love Ellie, and are crying our eyes out.

Weaknesses: Now Carl is curmudgeonly, grumpy, cold, and won’t pay attention to a living soul. He’s also plagued by grief, regret, guilt, and loneliness. (Which we are all 100% okay with, because we already like him.)

Need: He needs Russel. The statement of what he needs to learn isn’t outright said (as it will be later) but Russel represents it. 

Step Two: The catalyst was when a truck knocked down Ellie’s mailbox, Carl hit a construction worker in the head with his cane, and for this a judge declares him a public menace and orders him to go to Shady Oaks Retirement Village. The DESIRE is this moment. 

Carl escapes in a flying house, thousands of balloons lifting him skyward. He even says the desire of the whole story out loud, “So long boys! I’ll send you a postcard from Paradise Falls!” The tangible goal is “live out the rest of his days in his and Ellie’s house, on the edge of Paradise Falls, South America.” (“It’s like America … but South.”)

Step Three: The plan and the conflict overlap, as they are wont to do. We have a scene where Carl is unfurling sails, setting a compass, and settling back in his chair for a smooth journey. But later on, after some conflict has arrived, we have Russel figuring out how to actually make it there. And after even more conflict has arrived, we have him telling Russel “We’re going to walk to the falls quickly and quietly, with no rap music or flash-dancing.”

Step Four: The moment he settles back into his armchair, high above the city, and here’s a knock on the front door, nothing is going to be easy for Carl. First, we have opposition in the form of Russel. Then we have a storm. Then the house lands miles away from the Falls, so they’ll have to walk it. Then we have Kevin, the giant bird. Then we have Dug. Which means they’re also being chased by a legion of talking dogs. Which brings us to Muntz, the main villain, and Carl’s shadow – the representation of Carl’s flaws, and the consequences of refusing to let go of the past. 

Step Five: This is the trek to the Falls. It’s also the battle with every complication that arises. And it’s also exactly what Carl is not suited to do. He’s a curmudgeonly old guy, bent on living out the rest of his life alone. Well, the story says “Nope, Carl, that’s not how it’s going to be” and promptly gives him a surrogate grandson to take care of, a dog who adores him, and even a giant mythical bird. And he has to lead them all, if he’s going to get to the Falls. 

Step Six: The moment when Russel invades Carl’s heart. Which is what he needs, but he doesn’t understand. (I have the scene beated out in the previous post.)

Step Seven: Finally, he gives in to the worst of himself and chooses his goal of living in his broken house on the edge of Paradise Falls. But somehow this doesn’t feel like victory. He’s still alone, next to Ellie’s empty chair, and she is still beyond his reach. 

He picks up her adventure book, and leafs through the photographs, missing her; he pauses on the page scrawled with the words “Stuff I’m Going To Do”, lets his hand rest on it, grief and regret overwhelming him. He begins to close the book, and the page shifts … revealing the edge of another picture. Surprised, he turns the page. It’s their wedding picture.

Ellie added picture after picture of their happy marriage, the whole wonderful life they shared, all the things she did. And on the bottom of the last page is her last message to him: “Thanks for the adventure! Now go have a new one! Love, Ellie.” Exactly what Carl needs. He doesn’t need to be guilty, he doesn’t need to regret the past. The past was beautiful, and she will never truly leave him. 

Choice: So, Carl can make the choice to throw everything out of the house to go save Russel. 

New Life: Sitting on a curb, eating ice cream with Russel.

In the credits, we see a whole new life – or new adventure – with Carl, Russel, Dug, and even a bunch of new puppies.

So, it’s actually pretty simple. And once again, it’s fun to develop your own stories like this, but it’s surprisingly fun to analyze movies and books with it too. It improves your storytelling ability, I’ve found. Practice makes perfect.

I hope this post helps somebody out. It’ll make the ten times I cried while writing it, while watching scenes from Up, worth it.