Fiction Writing 101 – Lesson 1 Characterization
Bring it down.
The remains of the building fell down completely. And Kieron was amazed. He’d never known a single sky fighter with this kind of strength and they were skythletes.
Bring down both of these.
Two huge structures collapsed and Kieron shot up a good 1000 additional feet in the air with Steffana, to avoid inhaling the debris. He’d realized a little to late that they were too close to their destruction site. Once the dust settled, he landed with her. They’d destroyed an entire city block…what had been left of it anyway. It had been abandoned for years, due to stabilizer attacks. The fracking stabilizers…
Okay, now here comes the hard part, bring them back up…restore them.
This is Kieron – Super Skythlete! He can Fly!
Kieron sent Steffana an image of the city in its former glory, at least from what he could remember of it. What happened next almost stopped his own heart! New buildings appeared, almost immediately! He lifted the two of them to get a bird’s eye view, but within seconds she had manifested an entire city block. For several moments he was too stunned to speak or even think…at least he couldn’t form any thoughts to send to Steffana except…
Invisibility is still intact, correct?
This is the Real World!
They could not get caught, could not get caught, could not get caught! These thoughts ran through his head as he was overwhelmed by the immensity of what had just occurred. How could one little girl possess so much power? And if anyone ever found out, what would they do to her? How could he protect her? In a way, he was sorry that he had even begun this exercise. He knew Steffana was powerful…but this power, it even frightened him and he considered himself fearless. No man should have this kind of power, much less a little girl. Would she grow stronger? If she could destroy and create an entire city block as a child, Kieron could only imagine her adult powers. And yet, she was unskilled, untrained. In other words…dangerous. Very dangerous. He withdrew his connection to her. She had to learn to control it. So he decided to let her start with destruction. Destruction was easy, at least, far easier than creation.
Bring it down, all of it. He commanded soberly. What a waste. He took in the area, nostalgically. It reminded him of much happier times, bringing back memories of him and his father. Mentally, he captured image after image of his childhood neighborhood, while waiting for it’s imminent destruction.
I…I can’t. You have to help me.
And this was the catch…at least for her. She couldn’t seem to do any of this without his guidance. It was true. He was a superior General, an excellent strategist. But, the raw power was hers. Why couldn’t she figure out how to tap into it on her own?
Try, Steffana. You have to learn to control it on your own. Focus.
Maybe it wasn’t fair to put such pressure on her. He’d had years and years of training, while she’d had none. Besides, demolition, destruction, total annihilation…they weren’t exactly within the purview of most young girl’s experiences. She wasn’t a sky fighter, though, with the right training, she’d make an excellent one.
Bring it down Stef. Bring it down now.
Nothing happened though, nothing, finally, she brought a few shingles off of one of the roofs. Pathetic. GAW it! He couldn’t believe this. He was going to have to help her destroy his own perfect memory!
It’s too much. It’s too big.
But you manifested it!
With your help…Kieron, I don’t…I don’t like this game.
Fine. Give me your mind.
And it was seamless. A perfect connection. Never had Kieron felt so comfortable inside someone else’s mind. It was almost as if, he was her and she was him and together, they were unstoppable. But that scared him. He brought the city block down in seconds, all the while maintaining invisibility, and it was a good thing, because Sasha was near. He could sense her clearly, just one of the perks of being in Steffana’s mind. But, that also meant, Sasha could sense Stef. They had to leave quickly. He didn’t want to have to explain. But, just like that, the invisibility field disappeared. No doubt that was Sasha’s doing.
“What’s going on, here? And why is there so much dust everywhere?”
Nothing, don’t say it, don’t think it, tell her nothing!
“I was showing Steffana the basics of destruction. We came here because it was deserted. I took down a few empty buildings.”
“You’re such a show off Kieron! We all know what you can do. We see it every week at the Division 5 War Games…why are you teaching her this stuff anyway?”
“She needs a hobby.”
“She needs to wash her hair! Look at all this dirt, grime and dust? Why would you do this to her? What will Aunt Kellis say?”
Sashana eyed him suspiciously. Sasha was smart and clever. She knew something was up, though she didn’t quite know what. Sasha was almost the spitting image of her gorgeous mother. Green eyes, red hair, caramel skin, impeccable freckles, placed perfectly around the bridge of her nose and her cheeks, tall and voluptuous. She got whatever she wanted from most men, even her twin brother Othello. But Kieron was different. For the most part he was immune to her charms, and he was determined to keep this secret from her, and he could of that he was certain. Except…Steffana. And that was the problem with having such a powerful connection to her. He wasn’t the only one. Sasha was her sister, and as such, their connection was biological. And yet, the two could not have appeared to be more different.
This is Steffana, a very powerful telekine!
Steffana had the mark of the rare and the powerful, dark purple hair, which was so highly sought after at this point, it was almost a ridiculous cliché…the dumb purp, but Steffana’s was authentic. She truly had deep, rich, purple hair, and you could tell it was real by the way it hung down her back in thick curly locks. She too, had the freckles, dark purple freckles contrasting against light lavender skin that was impossible to imitate, though of course many women tried. Those attempts always ended up appearing rather botched and fake. But not Steffana. She was, had always been, the real deal.
And then, there was himself to consider. He was the rarest of them all, and he hated it. Standing just over seven feet, with his hair and eyes that, with some minor adjustments appeared to be white, he stood out in a crowd. He always had. His hair and his eyes were actually particles of light. But most of the time, he appeared adjusted, with very light eyes and very light hair. The color of his eyes he could change with moods, green, blue, purple, violet, though he tried to stay away from the warmer colors, red, orange, yellow pink – these colors seemed to frighten people, though they were excellent on the battlefield.
While, clearly they were times when his extraordinary appearance had its advantages, Kieron longed for a more inconspicuous look and color. The red, caramel and green appearance of Othello and Sashana were rare enough, and yet normal enough not to attract vast amounts of unwanted attention; and even Steffana, with her authentic hair and skin could sometimes go unnoticed. Usually, the authenticity of her look was so striking that people often did a double take. And yet her look was so widely imitated, she never seemed all that out of place. As for Kieron…well…people stared…and so he was lucky to be such a talented skythlete. Though highly unusual, his appearance was accepted as something desirable. It was in fact very close to, almost indistinguishable from, the light ones, a very powerful group indeed. So they simply threw him in with them, and did not question his appearance any further. And besides, for the most part, he’d learned how to disguise the light.
Hiding, hiding, hiding. Always hiding. Why? Why were there so many secrets? Why couldn’t he tell his own mother the truth about Steffana? Why did that scare him so? He had no idea what his mother would say about seeing Steffana come back with him, covered in filth, but most likely, she wouldn’t be pleased.
“I like it. It’s fun. I’ll tell Aunt Kellis that we had fun.”
He could always count on Steffana to keep their secrets
“Oh Steffana! He’s turning you into some sort of tomboy…the little brother he never had.”
“No. That would be Othello.”
Othello hated being referred to as his little brother, but it didn’t stop him from doing it.
“I’m going to tell him you said that!” Sasha teased.
Kieron shrugged. Sasha pulled her arm through Steffana’s and shielded her mind. No doubt she was working on wrestling the truth from Steffana. Would Steffana be strong enough to resist revealing the truth to Sasha? He did not know…and this was what made his connection to Steffana so dangerous. Steffana wasn’t strong enough to shield herself from everyone. She could shield herself from most, but she couldn’t fully shield herself from him…and that meant there was a chance she couldn’t fully shield herself from Sasha. Kieron didn’t trust Sasha, even though she was like a sister to him. Maybe that was why he didn’t trust her. He knew Sasha, very well.
What could be done? Not much. If their secret was revealed, he’d just have to deal with it. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been carrying secrets all his life. He had, and he’d always found ways to deal with it.
They walked back to the territory, as flying would have been too conspicuous. Invisibility should have been an option, but Stef’s invisibility shield had collapsed; and he didn’t have time to ask her about it. While he couldn’t hear them, he was certain that Stef and Sasha were in deep conversation, thought conversation, which Sasha was skillfully shielding from him. He felt like it would have been rude to interrupt. Invisibility. Why was it primarily a feminine power? Invisible was what he wanted to be right now, as he walked home to his mother’s territory, what was left of it anyway. How would he explain Steffana’s appearance to his mother?
Workshop Lesson 1 Characterization
So you want to write fiction huh? Is it as much fun as it looks? Absolutely! But it actually takes a whole lot of time and effort to learn how to do what I just did, above, which was create a scene in a novel.
The above scene is from my True World Destiny Series, a Trilogy that I’ve been writing for a number of years that deals with, among other things, two young lovers in a future world, learning how to understand and manipulate their extraordinary powers. Their names are Steffana and Kieron. I actually wrote the above scene, which is not entirely complete, fairly easily. How, you might ask? It’s was really quite simple because I know my characters! Oh my, do I know my characters! As one of my fellow writers explained about her characters, they live in my head and they will not shut up! You know that you too have got quite a story to write if you live with characters who simply will not shut up.
Well what creates a character? A lot of different things.
Magic – Character creation is part magic. Many writers talk about how characters just show up in their lives, with their own voices, personalities and demands. It’s almost as if they are showing up, possibly from another dimension and bursting some way, some how into ours. There a parts of Steffana and Kieron’s personalities that force their way into our world, via my head, very forcefully. For me, it’s almost as if they are real people and I am simply trying to translate their story for them, on to the page and into our world.
Mystery – But magical characters are also mysterious. Take Steffana and Kieron. How did they happen to reach me? Why me? What makes these characters so powerful that they can practically force me to tell their story and who are they really? When I see Steffana and Kieron, there is also a whole lot of mystery to them, because when I see them, I typically see them in scenes, just like the one I transcribed above. Yes I can see and hear these characters, but where are they from really? Honestly? I don’t know! All I can tell you about is what I “see” inside my head; and so finally we get to the third part of character creation.
Make – up – Okay, so I can see my characters in some kind city that has been totally destroyed, but I don’t really know the name of it. So guess what? I make it up! I basically lie, or use my imagination or am divinely inspired to just make up the information that is not readily available to me by what my characters show me. This is where fiction writing gets tricky! Writing fiction is basically lying. I just don’t know the name of this city, and if it does exist in another dimension, I’m sure that it does have a name, but I don’t know it. So I will lie. I will make up a name, and that will be that. But the thing about lies is that they have to be remembered. What is the name is the city that is being destroyed by Steffana and Kieron? I can’t call it Zeala in one chapter and then Zion, in the next. (Although in my early drafts I do tend to do such things.) This is the reason that writing a background for your characters is so important.
Background – In a character ‘s background you are going to basically create a cheat sheet for yourself, to remind yourself of all the little details about you character that you might forget. What country, state or city is your character from? What are his or her parent’s names? What kind of childhood did he have? What where the effects of his childhood on his present adult personality presenting in your story? What kind of kwirks does he have? Where did he attend school? What does your character do for a living? What kind of perspective does this character have on Life, Love and the Journey?
Physical Descriptions – What do your characters look like? Depending on the genre that you are writing in, you might spend a lot of time describing your characters appearance or hardly any at all. In some genres, like romance and sci-fi fantasy, how a character looks can be very important. The above genre is romance/sci-fi fantasy, so how these characters look is important. The appearance of these characters let us know that they are not from our current world. In Sci-fi fantasy, a writer must do a lot of world-building which is to say they must carefully and painstakingly show a reader how the world the characters live in is quite different than the one we inhabit. Also, the characters above are not entirely human! So the descriptions of them must reveal that. When we learn of Steffana’s purple skin and hair we begin to get the idea that these characters are certainly not your average teen lovers.
Personality Traits – Finally, you want to give the reader some insight into what your characters are like. Shy or gregarious? Friendly or mean? Frightened or Courageous? Do they have any bad habits? Do they have any exceptional or redeeming qualities? (All good main characters really must.) Or and in the case of my characters, do they have any secret extraordinary abilities?
Conflict – Last but not least all main characters must wrestle with some kind of conflict. Characters have both internal conflicts – something inside of them that is really bothering them and external conflicts – something outside of the main character that is preventing the character from accomplishing his goal or agenda. Three examples are very basic conflicts are: man against man, man against society and man against nature. The more internal and external conflicts a character is juggling, the more complicated he or she will be. Conflict is critical to adding depth to a character.
Okay, so know that you know the basics about character creation, take this basic quiz to see how much you’ve learned.
Quiz 1 Character Creation
1. What are the three M’s of character creation?
2. Why are Steffana and Kieron magical?
3. Why are Steffana and Kieron mysterious?
4. What things about Steffana and Kieron are made up? How will I keep track of these lies?
5. Based on the above passage, can you figure out any background information on Steffana and Kieron?
6. How do Steffana and Kieron’s physical descriptions from the above passage indicate that they are extraordinary human beings?
7. Based on the above passages, have you picked up on any of Kieron or Steffana’s personality traits?
8. Based on the above passages, have you picked up on any of Kieron or Steffana’s internal or external conflicts?
We will revisit many of these questions in our next lesson which will be on setting.