Tag Archives: protagonist

Character Bible Part 1 – Joss

Now that you received some background on the story in the form of my last post, I can begin my character bible.  This is a YA Sci-Fi which, for lack of an actual title, is called Bamboo Pole.  It is called that because I had a dream about a girl who had a bamboo pole that she kept with her at all times.  She had a list of rules associated with it, something you’ll notice I tried to mimic in its first draft.  Anyway, I woke up and forgot everything except Girl+Bamboo Pole.

So the girl in question is Joss.  Here is what I typed up about Joss in the Word doc I made for the characters:

Name: Joss

Age in Earth Years: 18

Species: ????

Powers:
Basic telekinesis.  Mostly used to fly/hover, but can be used to deflect melee weapons.

Backstory:
Her mother was a refugee, fleeing from her oppressive homeland in a basic shuttle.  Unfortunately,  she flew too close to the prison planet, Burg.  The planet’s automated defense system shot the shuttle down, and she crash landed.  The mother survived with her newborn (Joss) for several days in the wild.  She had managed to guide the shuttle into a cave where it wouldn’t be immediately obvious.  Unfortunately she couldn’t make repairs and she was injured.  Eventually she was found by Enforcers, who took her into custody.  The baby they were going to kill when they heard reports of rebel activity in the area.  They decided to set up a trap using the baby, knowing that would lead to the baby’s death as well as a rebel or two.  The woman was taken away, to be executed.  They never found her shuttle.  The shuttle was recording the incident from inside the cave so Joss could eventually find it and learn the truth about her origins.

Joss is found as a baby by Kanid and Thea and is brought back to Rath’s* camp where she is raised to become a rebel.  She is profoundly deaf, but makes up her own sign language and proves to be very skilled with staffs for fighting.

Appearance:
Coppery skin and light brown hair with some golden strands that glow in the sunlight.  A little on the shorter side, but very sturdy.  Muscular.  She has pointed ears and orange eyes.

After drawing my best approximation of Joss, I realized two things.  1. Copper doesn’t come across too well in Photoshop Elements.  2. Copper skin and light brown hair tend to blend in to one another.

So I kinda gave her dirty blond hair, and you’ll have to imagine her skin is a little more coppery.

Joss

She was drawn with a bamboo pole because I still haven’t decided what her staff is going to look like.

When I think about Joss, I think about someone who  is mischievous and headstrong.  She is one of the main characters because she is an alien among aliens.  (The prison planet has many species of alien on it, but Joss’ species is not among them, hence the ????)  Her deafness does not prevent her from becoming a good fighter and friend.  She is intelligent enough to develop her own sign language, so that says something.

A couple notes: First, if you ever see a name with an asterisk by it, that means I want to change the name but haven’t come up with a suitable replacement yet.

Second, profound deafness is actually incredibly rare.  Usually Deaf people hear some sounds, but not enough to make out speech.  In this case, I’m taking artistic license to make Joss one of those rare people who hears nothing at all.  Also, she’s an alien in a fictional universe so… yeah.  She probably doesn’t follow human rules.

I think one of the main things I have to concentrate on with Joss is why the story follows her half the time, instead of one of the other characters.  Part of it is that she and Paxton both hold pieces to a puzzle that solves the rebels’ problems.  Her mother’s ship is transportation and proof that other species can still make contact with the prison world.  Paxton’s part you’ll find out next time.

But other than that, I don’t have a character arc for Joss right now.  She will struggle when her adoptive father gets captured, and when she finds out what happened to her mother.  However, that doesn’t create a character arc.  She needs to have flaws and weaknesses (besides a hearing disability) or something else about her that changes as the story progresses.

I will think on it more.  Safe to say this blog character bible idea is working, because I didn’t realize the aforementioned problem with Joss’ character development until I started typing out my thoughts on her.

Neat.

Next time – Paxton, a boring human.

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Character Shirts

No I am not going to try to sell you shirts I made about my books on CafePress or something.  I was just lying awake last night thinking about what I want to write next for The Dreamcatchers, but I am having a little trouble despite my “Change Something” plan.  Mainly because it is very hard to juggle three main characters.  You know what with the unique personalities and equal page-time (my book version of screen time).  It’s hard to make sure they all have a fairly equal impact on the course of events.

Normally when I’m lying awake at night, I just make up stories about lovable hitmen.  This time I decided to make up a little exercise for myself.  I decided to make some T-shirts for my protagonists.  There would be three each, mainly because three seemed like a good number.  The first would display each character’s greatest fear.  The second would display each character’s greatest desire.  The fun thing about that second one was that I decided to go with a desire the characters themselves might not even know they had.

Why did I choose T-shirts?  Because you can’t fit too much on a shirt.

Full Story

See?  If you try that, you’re only going to get part of the story.

Part of the Story

Since I am notoriously bad at censoring myself, I thought limiting my ramble-prone brain to the confines of a T-shirt would help me….somehow.  No I don’t know why it’s necessary to keep things concise.  It’s just a stupid, insomnia-induced writing exercise, okay?

So, T-shirt 1.  Greatest fear.

Shaina

Afraid to Fail

Cady

Afraid to Try

Eric

Afraid to Slow Down

Second shirt.  Greatest desire.

Shaina:

Confidence Shirt

Cady:

Courage Shirt

Eric:

Closure Shirt

No I wasn’t trying me to make them all start with C, but I’m tickled that they do.

The third shirt was hard.  I just chose three because it’s usually the go-to number for lists and exercises.  At first I was just going to choose a few words that belonged to the characters, but that had me revealing things I wasn’t ready to.  Things I wasn’t even sure about permanently attributing to these characters yet.  So in the end I did something a little different.  I decided to draw stick figures on the shirts.  The figures were placed in a way that I thought would encompass these characters without the use of words.  See what you think.

Shaina:

Shaina's Shirt

Cady:

Cady's Shirt

Eric:

Eric's Shirt

So that’s that.  You might not know much about these characters but now maybe you know a little more?  Without even having to read anything about them.  That’s kinda cool right?  Anyway, feel free to try the Shirt Exercise yourself.  It’s actually a really good way to get you to think, get those creative juices flowing.

That’s all I’ve got.  I get all my best (or is it worst?) blog ideas at 1 AM it seems.

Byyyye!

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Immortality

I’ve been thinking a lot about immortality lately.  Not that I’d like to be immortal; that would be terrible.  But a lot of characters in books are immortal, and that poses more problems than you’d think.

For one thing, you have to define the limits of their immortality.  I know that sounds oxymoronic – limited immortality – but think about it: A character who is untouchable, like Superman without a weakness to green rocks, has little motivation to be careful and think things through.  He or she does not care at all about going blindly into any situation.  And why should they?  They can’t be harmed.  But that makes it a little difficult to create any amount of suspense around that character.  You know he or she is going to be fine no matter what.

Another thing is that an untouchable protagonist makes for a character that your readers can’t really relate to.  When was the last time you looked at Superman and thought, “I know exactly how he feels.  I hate it when entire buildings fall on me.  It really messes up my hair”?

Messed Up Hair

No worries, though, because your character can still have very human flaws that make him or her more empathetic.  That’s not what I want to talk about though.  What I want to talk about, as I said, is the possible limits of immortality.

For example: Have you thought about what would happen to an immortal if their head was cut off?  If they were chopped up into teeny tiny pieces?  Incinerated?  Dissolved in acid?  Do those things just not touch them?  Do they bleed when they’re cut?  Or can they simply not be cut?

Severed-Head

These are all things that must be established.  The reason I’m talking about this is I have several characters in Hellbound who are some form of “immortal.”  My protagonist is, for one.  As are the protagonist’s father and uncle.  But all the immortal characters do have weaknesses.  They can be killed in certain situations.  It’s just tricky, because most things can’t kill them.  So how do you create a sense of urgency?  Suspense?  When the reader knows that a character is untouchable, it is hard to do these things.

Fortunately, as the author, you control the world you create.  You can make exceptions to the rule, create an opponent who has the ability to harm immortals, define the parameters of your character’s immortality.  It is all your doing.  But you do have to think about those things.  It is not enough to say “He is immortal.”  You must say, “He is immortal, in that he will live forever, provided that no one ever attacks him with a man-made weapon and cuts his head off which will cause him to die.  Other weapons, like guns, have no effect on him because they are made by machines.”  And the explanations could go on and on.

That’s all I have to say really.  Just wanted to point out to you that immortality is complicated.

Have a comic:

Writer's Block Strip 16

Word of the Day: Parameter (n) – a limit or boundary; guideline.

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