New Tumblr Blog: A Story Addict Extension

story-addict-on-tubmlr

I’ve long since wondered about the best way to share links, quotes, books, and other great storytelling content until it finally hit me – that’s what Tumblr is for! You can now find an extension of Story Addict on tumblr at addictivestory.tumblr.com where I’ll reblog all such goodies, including the blog posts published here on WordPress.

If all goes according to plan, it will be a great resource with a few occasional puns thrown in. Hope to see you there!

– The Story Addict

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Does Your Character Pass the ‘Memorable’ Test?

Why do we remember some characters so well, like Harry Potter, Pocahontas, or Shrek, while others fade away within a few months or even hours after we learn about them? How can certain characters be so timeless that we remember them for decades and can talk about them to almost anyone without having to explain who they are?

Some of us are better at faces, others at names. And others, well, neither. Our memory is a funny thing, but  two things holds true: we often remember the most emotional moments in our lifetime, as well as the most unique.

First, take this simple test and figure out if your character is memorable, and then we’ll talk. Please note that the word “unique” as used in this test means two things: 1) that no other character in the story has this trait, and 2) that few, if any, characters in others stories possess this trait (it’s uncommon).

Does your character have a unique … ?

1) Personality (how they react to things versus how other characters react) YES  / NO

2) Physical appearance (this could be their face, hair, shape, or clothing) YES / NO

3) Object they use and take everywhere with them (examples: a weapon, a guitar, or a journal) YES / NO

4) Accessory that is symbolic to them (examples: a necklace, a scarf, or a helmet) YES / NO

5) Companion (usually an animal, but it can also be a spirit guide, fairy, or other being that always follows them around or lives with them) YES / NO

6)  Group of friends that complement their personality (have personality traits that the character in question lacks, and vice versa) YES / NO

7 ) Power or ability (this could range from telepathy to being a good liar or sense of humor) YES / NO

8) First name (should be one that is pronounceable, or at least teachable. Trademark examples include: Mulan, Naruto, and Hermione) YES / NO

9) Hobby (something they love to do that might be a little weird. Examples: collecting antiques, building miniature houses, or dancing to country music) YES / NO

10) Lofty goal or expectation (often difficult to achieve or highly competitive, such as defeating a powerful villain, earning a high-ranking title, or having an unlikely romance) YES / NO

11) Accent or manner of speech (Examples: Shrek, Hagrid, Austin Powers) YES/ NO

Now give yourself a point for every “yes” and no points for every “no.” Add them up and look at the following chart:

If you scored 7-11 points: Congrats! You have a character that’s in league with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and leading Disney characters – the ones we just can’t seem to forget! Although, having a memorable character doesn’t mean they’re likeable or sympathetic (two completely separate things). You might want to read up on those as well if you want to make sure your audience can also connect with them.

If you scored 4-6 points: Well done! Your character’s not bound to be forgotten any time soon. You can probably spice them up a bit more if you’d really like for them to stand out, but you’re well on your way.

If you scored 0-3 points: The bad news is, your character’s not likely to be remembered. The good news is, you can make them more memorable by implementing the things they’re missing to help them stand out.

So why does this work? Why do we remember characters like this? It’s pretty simple. Our mind remembers things easier when it can relate them to other things. That’s why mnemonics work for us. Which one is Harry again? The one with the lightning-shaped scar, duh. Which one’s Hermione? Oh, she’s extremely smart and has bushy hair. What about Shrek? Well, he’s green and has martian-looking ears, but we also know he’s not the Grinch because, unlike the Grinch, his companion is a donkey.

Uniqueness does the trick. Can you overdo it? I guess you can. If you give your character blue hair and that doesn’t make any sense based on their personality, people will suspect it to be a cheap shot at making them unique and call you out on it. So be authentic. Don’t force your characters to be something they’re not, but keep the unique traits in mind when creating new ones.

If you can think of any other traits that might make a character unique and memorable, drop them in the comments below. See you next time!

– The Story Addict

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Why Sequels Pale In Comparison to the Original

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

“Should I bother writing a sequel?” If you’re asking yourself or your editor/agent/publisher that question, the answer is most probably “no.” Let me explain.

Whether you’ve written your dream story or your marketed-to-sell story, you did it with a spark of inspiration. Something told you this is the one. It may or may not be, but that didn’t matter to you because you wrote it anyway. You invested time, possibly even bothered to sharpen up your skills before you began, and acted on the “itch” with full–or at least some–belief that it would be a hit.

So what now? Maybe you’re self-publishing or got a big contract deal. Do you start on a sequel right away or wait to see how it sells? This is the rule of thumb I would recommend you go by:

  • If you ask yourself “should I bother?” or if you’re thinking to wait for the numbers to come in on the sales, don’t do it. Why? Because most sequels tank for this very reason. People only write them as fan-service to their fans, or because their publisher requested it. That doesn’t mean they will be bad, but it is often the reason they aren’t as great as the original. Can you do this anyway? Yes, of course. It’s wonderful to have books to sell to your fan base. But you should probably wait for the numbers to come in and make sure you have one. Otherwise, you’ll be struggling to write a “fan-service” sequel for fans that don’t yet exist. (I really like this particular comic by Tom Gauld to illustrate my point).
  • If you don’t ask yourself that question, and you just have a burning idea for the sequel, GO FOR IT! Nothing should stop you from writing when you want to write. Whether you have the urge to write fan fiction, poetry, or the sequel to your novel that hasn’t even been published yet, do it! These are the rare sequels that do well if the original novels (or movies) do well.

Are there exceptions to these two scenarios? Sure. There are plenty of writers who do well writing on commission for their fan base or publisher. And there are plenty that were sitting on a dud writing novel after novel without knowing it. But if that question’s been buzzing around your head, that’s how I would answer it.

Since it’s hard to confirm the authors who went with either decision, I didn’t include specific examples this time, but consider franchises like Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, most Disney sequels, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Star Wars and I think you’ll notice the trends as well. See you next time!

– The Story Addict

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Traits of a Solid Main Character

character-traits

While stereotypes of main characters should be avoided, some traits are recurring and important to have to ground your reader and help them instantly connect with the voice of your story. Here are a few.

The main character should …

1) Have a clear goal to achieve. Whether a career, a love interest, or something else. The only requirement is that the goal should be challenging to achieve. There should be someone or something standing in their way of achieving it. And the story may or may not be about them ultimately getting to that goal, but it should play a key role.

Some examples:

– Captain Jack Sparrow’s goal to get back the Black Pearl.

– Wesley’s goal to rescue The Princess Bride.

2) Have a motive. Not only should the main character have a goal, but they should be so fired up to achieve it that nothing can stand in their way. Whether it’s a threat, someone’s death, or a reward, the motive should be clear and make sense to the reader as to why it motivates the character.

Some examples:

– Katniss’s motive to enter the Hunger Games was to protect her sister.

– Rupunzel’s motive to leave the tower was to witness the floating lanterns.

3) Be relatable. This one’s tough because different people relate to different things. Some people will see themselves in a character because the character looks like them, dresses like them, likes their kind of books, music, or simply acts like them. This is obviously impossible to achieve for every reader since people are so different. The best way to relate to readers is through feelings that they have also likely experienced, regardless who the character is or what they like.

Some examples:

– We relate to Cinderella because we’ve all at one point had to do chores we didn’t want to do when we could have been doing something more enjoyable. Or had to deal with nasty “relatives.”

– We relate to Harry Potter because we sympathize with his abusive relatives and we root for the fact that he gets to escape his home and go to a magical school.

There are definitely more recurring traits in solid main characters. If you can think of some of them, drop them in the comments below. See you next time!

– The Story Addict

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Character First, Then Plot

You might be wondering why I chose the quote above. For one, it’s a pretty good quote. Decide on the path you want to take, or it will be decided for you, like it or not. In other words, unless you act on what you want, you’re going to be guided by external forces. By some mysterious “author.”

And authors who don’t listen to their character’s desires and emotions simply lead them on a leash, tugging whichever way is necessary, to make the story work out as they wish.

The reason this happens is not so much because the authors are poor writers, but because they create an interesting plot and then try to fit a character to it. The trouble with this approach is that you get a plot-driven story and, often, the main character simply isn’t interesting. Think about it, would you rather read a story with an interesting character or an interesting plot?

Some of you might say plot. And if you’re writing books for children that might be okay. But let’s face it, many readers aren’t kids anymore and flat characters just won’t cut it.

Of course, you want the plot to be interesting too. If done right, the plot is bound to be more interesting if the story is character-driven, especially if the character is fascinating, because you never know how it will turn out.

A character-driven story follows the choices of the character based on their past, personality, thoughts, and ambitions. A plot-driven story tells the character to go from A to B in a very structured way, whether he/she likes it or not. (You’re practically enslaving them!)

Should you plan out your story? Of course. But with the character’s ultimate decisions in mind. And if a choice doesn’t make sense, don’t force it. Something more interesting will come along.

If you have thoughts on whether character or plot should come first, drop them in the comments below.

See you next time!

– The Story Addict

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How to Ride the Creativity Wave

Ever walked into the shower with a block (it can be writer’s, artist’s or creator’s block) and walked out with the solution to your problem? Bet you have. If you haven’t, give it a shot. Works every time.

Recently I started wondering why that was. My critique partner and I joked about it at first, but when I started noticing it as a trend among other creatives, it got me thinking the shower was a magical place, indeed. Close. But there’s more to it.

When I came across the science behind brain activity, it hit me: creativity was related to a calmer state of mind, while logic was related to a more stressed state of mind. That’s why some people did better on tests under high pressure, while others got wonky art ideas when they got high (which, by the way, I don’t recommend. Keep your head in the game, folks!).

So if you want to be creative, if you want ideas to flow like water, you’ve got to RELAX.

The more you focus on your lack of ideas, the worse your ideas get. The less you focus on them, the wider the gates of creativity open and the easier it is to come up with original characters, plot, designs, and settings.

Here are just a few things you can do to help:

1) Meditate. Meditation is incredibly powerful for creativity. Not only does it untangle your mind, but it also literally changes your brain and lets creativity flow. Read more about how meditation transforms the brain here.

2) Listen to instrumental music. It can be epic, new age, orchestral, jazz, or whatever floats your boat, so long as it doesn’t stress you out. No metal, sorry.

3) Ride the creativity wave! If you feel like you’re “in the zone,” get as much done as you possibly can! We don’t often stay on fire for long periods of time before our fuel runs out. Ride that baby for all the juice it’s got, then take it easy once you’ve got material you can work on with your more logical side (like editing). That’s why authors like Stephen King suggest you spit out as much of the story in one go as you can. Get your creativity while it’s hot!

4) Do a creative activity unrelated to your art. By art, I include writing, of course. Do something which you might suck at but you have a helluva time doing it. Dance, sing, paint, play an instrument even if you’re lousy. It will encourage you to do more of the thing you are good at so you can give others the same great feeling.

5) Go for a walk. Tuning into nature can tap into more of your creativity. Nature is inspiring on it’s own. If you can, travel. Seeing new places always taps your creative side.

Got more ideas? Share them below if you like. Hope this helps keep you creating!

-The Story Addict

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NaNoWriMo: Why November Is the Best Month to Write

NaNo Poster2.47

Design by Nic Buron

If you’re an author active online, you may have heard of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t, I highly suggest checking out the website and learning more about it from other bloggers.

For those unfamiliar with the annual tradition, November is the month during which a ton of writers online have decide to write simultaneously.

You can write a novel, short stories, poetry, whatever you like, just so long as you keep ranking up your word count.

It’s no competition, only a personal goal, and you can set your word count goal to whatever you like. I’d recommend aiming for 30k-50k (50k is the default for NaNo), but I’ve seen authors complete an entire novel anywhere from 60k-80k. So it’s up to you, depending on  how much time you’ve got, how fast you type, and how much of the story comes to you.

Remember, it’s not about being wordy but “telling yourself the story,” as Stephen King and many other successful authors would say.

So why not put it off to, say, December, or some other month? Imagine this: thousands and thousands of writers online are writing at the same time as you are.

Sure, people write every day. And certainly somewhere out in the world that’s all some people do. But we’re talking a massive storytelling buzz going on.

If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will. Writing with that kind of buzz going on makes you more excited, and in turn makes your writing more exciting.

In fact, two years ago, I wrote THE EXECUTIONER, which recently got published by Crescent Moon Press, and I plan to work on the sequel during NaNo again. Granted, I only got about 27k done, but it’s better than nothing! And it’s just too good a writing opportunity to pass up.

So, if you’ve decided to hop aboard the NaNo express, hurry and get writing! Don’t forget to log your word count each day to keep yourself motivated. Tweet it out if you like to motivate other writers, and don’t forget to encourage others to participate. (A word of caution: If you’re blasting out 5k a day or more, don’t rub it in. Be modest and remember not everyone has all the time in the world to write.)

Got reasons to write in November? Drop them in the comments below.

See you next time!

– The Story Addict

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