Character Development Pt. 4: Looks

If you’re new to this series (welcome!), make sure to check out the first three posts: naming characters, character backstories, and character personalities. For those of you who are regular readers, welcome back! Let’s get started.

These last few weeks, I’ve been talking about more the concept-based ideas of character creation– personalities and stories that add up to create the person hidden within their shell. Today, I want to talk about the actual shell.

At this point in your life, you’ve probably realized that people are treated differently based on what they look like: sexism, racism, and all kinds of other -isms abound in today’s society alongside the discrimination that surrounds them. All of those things have a huge impact on the way characters present themselves to the world, the way they think of themselves, and the way other characters view them.

A teenage African-American girl would have a totally different experience from a white man in his early 60s. Depending on your plot or setting, she might face serious racism or sexism, struggle with her looks or body image (like many girls her age), or face thousands of other problems relating to her appearance. The man, however, might be used to getting his way and not having to deal with racism or sexism, considering the generation he would have grown up in.

Although the idea of looks being a huge part of who your character is may seem shallow, it’s actually completely necessary (as shown above). Sometimes the whole picture of the character won’t show up until you’re done with your first (or second, or third . . .) draft, just like their complete personality might not, so don’t worry if all you’ve got is a little blank holding space for a character yet to come.

Character Development Pt. 4: Looks-- Olivia Simone

Since this is the last post in this series, I’d like to thank all of you who stuck with it the whole way through, as well as those of you who may be newer to my blog and are reading this for the first time (in which case, take a moment to check out the earlier posts in the series– links are posted in the beginning of this post). As always, I’ll be posting on Friday, but until then, enjoy the warm weather while you can (hopefully, it’ll stick around for longer than a couple of days).

Easy Knitted Bookmarks

I’ve been making a lot of cute little projects recently as a kind of treatment for my cabin fever, and as I was looking at the little stash I’ve collected, I realized, Hey, these would be really cool to share on my blog. The mind of a blogger works in strange ways.

Among my stash is a set of knit bookmarks made from a ball of tie-dyed yarn I found at the bottom of my yarn basket. One is in seed/moss stitch, one is done in a kind of lace stitch, and the last one has a cable running down the middle. All of them are easy, quick, and perfect to make as a last minute gift.

Easy Knitted Bookmarks-- Olivia Simone

Materials:

  • sport or lightweight worsted yarn
  • size 4 needles
  • cable needle (cn)
  • yarn needle

materials1 (1)

SEED STITCH BOOKMARK

Finished Dimensions:

1 1/2″ by 8 1/2″

Gauge:

25 stitches to 4″

Seed Stitch Pattern:

k1, *p1, k1*

Bookmark Pattern:

  • Cast on 9 stitches
  • Work in seed stitch pattern until bookmark reaches desired length
  • Bind off in stitch pattern
  • Weave in loose ends

seedstitch

LACE STITCH BOOKMARK

Finished Dimensions:

1 1/2″ by 8 1/2″

Gauge:

20 stitches to 4″

Lace Stitch Pattern:

Row 1: k1, *yo, k2tog*

Row 2: p2, *yo, p2tog*

Bookmark Pattern:

  • Cast on 8 stitches
  • Work in lace stitch until bookmark reaches desired length
  • Cast off in stitch pattern
  • Weave in loose ends

lacestitch

CABLED BOOKMARK

Finished Dimensions:

1 1/2″ by 8 1/2″

Gauge:

26 stitches to 4″

Cable Stitch Pattern:

Row 1: k4, p1, k4

Row 2: k2, p2, k1, p2, k2

Row 3: k2, slip 2 sts to cn, k3, k2 off cn, k2

Row 4: repeat row 2

Bookmark Pattern:

  • Cast on 9 stitches
  • Work in cable stitch pattern until bookmark reaches desired length
  • Bind off in stitch pattern
  • Weave in yarn ends

cablestitch

It’s finally started to get warmer here– I didn’t even have to wear a winter coat today! I’m really looking forward to being able to spend time outside without freezing to death, although the weather has brought me and Netflix very close. I hope wherever you are, it’s starting to get nicer out.

Keep watching for my next posts– I’ll see you on Tuesday.

Shoutout to Serena’s Musings

Hi there! I was planning on writing a longer post today (I’ll be posting the one that was supposed to be for today next Friday instead), but somehow I watched a little bit too much Supernatural, so now I’m kind of short on time.

My friend Serena, who is 100% responsible for getting me started blogging, has a blog of her own: Serena’s Musings. Although she doesn’t post very often (if you’re reading this, Serena, this is a subtle hint to POST MORE), when she does, it’s always amazing. She’s got an incredible gift for writing, and especially for the more serious topics that her posts generally center on.

Serena's Musings

Take a minute or two to go check out her blog– it’s really cool, and you won’t regret it. I’ll try to get that other post done by next Friday, but until then, I’ll be posting on both Sunday and Tuesday as usual.

Character Development Pt. 3: Personality

If you’re new to this series (welcome!), make sure to check out my first two posts: naming characters and character backstories. For those of you who are regular readers, welcome back! Let’s get started.

Imagine living in a world where everybody’s the same. Maybe people look different– different colors of hair, skin, eyes, you name it– but they all speak the same way, feel the same way, even think the same way. Kind of creepy, right?

Clarifying point: I will not be talking about Erudite mind control or Walking Dead-style zombification today. However, I’m going to be talking about a slightly different kind of zombie: the kind that happens when characters get a bit too off-settingly similar to one another.

Sure, your characters may look different from one another, but (and this is going to sound really melodramatic) it’s what’s inside that counts. Your reader won’t be seeing Character X’s long, flowing blonde locks and Character Y’s purple eyes. You can try and cement those ideas of their appearance in as much as you want to, but what the reader’s going to remember is not what they look like, but who they are beyond the picture you’ve presented.

Although picking a bunch of adjectives and cramming them inside the shell of a character may work for some of you (and my sincerest congratulations if you can do it that easily), I use a different, way more difficult, and time-consuming method to figure out who my characters are.

And it works, or at least it has so far.

The way I discover my characters’ personalities is through writing about them and thinking about them non-stop until I chip away at all the rocks and whatnot hiding the diamond that is my character. (Okay, that was really melodramatic). Maybe there are a few rough spots left, but the only ones I’ve found are the type that are easy enough to smooth out while editing.

The writing is hardly publishable, and I don’t even dream of trying to work it in to my WIP unless it’s a true work of art (a very rare occurrence). Most of mine are little scenes filled with painful prose and awkward transitions, and depending on the character, way too much drama.

But little by little, I figure out what fits and what doesn’t, what should stay and what should go. It takes a while, but I’m finally able to uncover the little gem of personality hidden inside my characters.

After that, there’s a whole process I go through as I write the actual piece, when little snippets of wisdom (relating to all kinds of character development, but especially personality-wise) randomly fly into my head and I write them down on the nearest acceptable surface. Most of that may happen in the shower, but that’s one fact I’m not confirming. I would like to hint, though, that talking to yourself while trying to do this is highly encouraged and has been proven to work very well (all outside research, of course, since I never do stuff like this).

Cramming adjectives into a shell, writing paragraphs of absolute trash, talking to yourself– whatever works best for you, do it. Personality is a huge part of who we are, just like it’s a huge part of who your character is. Don’t forget it.

Character Development Pt. 3: Personality -- Olivia Simone

I’ll be posting Part 4 of this series on Tuesday, but don’t miss my regular Friday and Sunday posts. See you later!

T-Shirt Quilt

I’m ashamed to say that it was only a month or two ago that I learned to use my sewing machine, which had lingered in the basement for oh, say, close to 7 or 8 years. When I finally rediscovered it, lonely and dusty in its little corner, I went a bit crazy, piling on projects like nobody’s business. Luckily, it’s a good, sturdy model, great for a beginner, and fortune blessed me with very few injuries and a pretty smooth ride along my first few attempts to make it work (which it did).

sewingmachine
Here’s my trusty sewing machine.

One of the more ambitious projects, it would seem, is the quilt I started a few weeks after my rediscovery of the mysterious sewing machine. In reality, it’s turned out to be (at least so far) to be much easier than I had ever expected. Of course, as is usual behavior for me, I spent several hours researching how to make one, which led me to several terrifying articles about how one ought to spend at least several years sewing before one even thinks about making a quilt. Seeing as I had a maximum of two weeks’ experience, I wasn’t exactly in the best position, or so I thought.

I’m not likely to try piecework or some other kind of complicated quilty-ness any time soon, but I’m no longer horrified at the thought of making my own quilt (not yet, anyway– I’ll let you know how I feel once I finish the actual piecing and start working on binding). It’s not going to be especially large, since I may have underestimated the amount of material (t-shirts, in other words) that I needed to make a decent size quilt, but it’ll be a good size for a baby one.

This is one of about fifteen strips. Once I finish all of them, I'll sew the strips into the quilt top.

Basically, I found 6 or 7 t-shirts (I’d definitely recommend using more), cut them into 4″ by 4″ squares (a larger size would probably make it quicker, but I’m in no rush), and am currently in the process of stitching the rows into place. I can only really sew on my off days, but a good hour can usually put me through a row and a half.

sewing

‘Slow and steady wins the race’ goes the saying, and I hope that’s the case here, since I’d prefer not to have this turn out to be a giant (well, actually, baby-quilt-sized) mess. I’ll be updating you periodically throughout this long and arduous process, so fingers crossed that I don’t screw up too badly and end up embarrassing me in front of the entire population of the internet.

T-Shirt Quilt-- Olivia Simone

That’s it for today! I’ll see you again on Tuesday in a continuation of my series on character development (you can find my first post here), but until then, my prayers to those of you stuck in the snowbanks of the East Coast, and a snarling side-eye to those of you who happen to be in places warmer than the Midwest (it’s March, after all). Bye!

My Playlist

Sorry to those of you who may have been expecting a longer post: today’s going to be pretty short. I just realized I have a gigantic to-do list (probably should have done about half of it yesterday . . . whoops), and I figured that getting my homework done was probably a better idea than spending several hours on a blog post. I’m sharing with you a list of my favorite songs of the moment. Quick disclaimer: I listen to a lot of rock/alternative stuff, so if that’s not your thing, I’d skip this list. The links go to YouTube, but you should be able to find the songs on iTunes without too much trouble.

My Playlist-- Olivia Simone

I hope you enjoyed my list, and I’ll see you again on Sunday.

Character Development Part 2: Backstory

If you’re new to this series (welcome!), make sure to check out my first post, about naming characters. For those of you who are regular readers, welcome back! Let’s get started.

Everyone has a story to tell, including your characters. And everyone’s story, no matter how small or unimportant it might seem, is going to have a gigantic influence on who they are and the choices they make. You don’t need to be able to write an entire biography on a character, but you should have a good understanding of their past and what made them who they are today. The two umbrella subjects I’ll be talking about today are people and places/events, although there’s plenty more that makes your character who they are. Here we go:

People

Maybe your character grew up with little to no outside support from either friends or family and had to support themselves completely. Maybe your character had a friend stab them in the back when they needed it most, and now they can’t trust anyone. Okay, so maybe these examples are a bit dramatic, but it’s definitely something you want to keep in mind. Whether they like it or not, just like in real life, your character is going to be heavily influenced by the people surrounding their life.

The main character of my current WIP, Siri (who I talked about a bit in last week’s post), has what looks like a pretty boring backstory, but actually turns out to be pretty important. Growing up in a large family in a tiny village on the coastline, she’s always kind of been the baby, what with her parents and three older siblings looking after her all the time. I can’t tell you anything specific about the plot, but there is a part when she’s separated from just about everyone she loves and ends up having to fend for herself for quite a bit of time. For her older sister, it might not be so much of a challenge, but for Siri, she’s so used to leaning on others that it comes as complete shock when she has to learn to depend on herself.

Don’t forget to take people around the character into account; they may end up having more influence on the character than anything else.

Places/Events

The second part of backstory that I’m going to talk about today are the places and events that shape your character’s life. This is probably the most obvious bit of backstory creation. A few examples off the top of my head: a soldier spends five years fighting in a war only to struggle with fitting back in to civilian life at their return; a character’s parents die in a car crash the character is partly responsible for, leading the character to think they were the sole cause of their parents’ death; a character accidentally gets a second-degree burn from an iron and is from then on terrified of ironing (this one actually happened to me when I was seven or eight, although I’ve overcome my fear since then).

However, the opposite may be the case. Maybe your character had a pretty unexciting childhood and now they seek out excitement in dangerous ways. Or maybe, as in the case of Siri, they’ve had an uneventful life so far, so when their world shifts, they have no idea how to keep up with it and find their footing.

This is probably the easier part of creating a backstory, for obvious reasons, but essential nonetheless.

Character Development Pt. 2: Backstory-- Olivia Simone

Thanks for reading! I’ll be continuing this series next Tuesday, as always, but I’ll be posting on Friday and Sunday too.