blog about reviews writing

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Character Development 101 Part Dos: The Giant Form of Doom

*evil cackle* I know this is a very long post.  As a good friend would say: live with it.  It's helpful, I promise!
When working on a character, some things are often overlooked, forgotten, or just plain too hard to figure out.  Filling out a giant form of doom like this really helps to keep track of your character.  There are many of these online.  This is just one of them that I found, slightly modified.  Some of these may not be relevant, depending on what genre you write.  If you're writing a fantasy novel set in another world, chances are their favorite music and books won't be relevant because it's not set in our world.
It looks intimidating.  I know.  Once you get going, it's actually much easier than you would think.  It shouldn't take very long.  Feel free to add or delete categories as you figure out what works for you.

The Form of Doom Begins Here:
Today's Date:
Full name of Character:
Reason, meaning or purpose behind the name:
Reason for nickname:
Social class:

How old they appear:
Eye Color:
Glasses or contacts?
Hair color length and style:
Weight and height:
Type of body (build):
Shape of face:
Distinguishing marks (dimples, moles, scars, birthmarks, etc.):
Predominant feature:
Is s/he healthy?
If not, why not? Or why are they healthy?

Char’s favorite color:
Least favorite, why?
Least favorite music, why?
Mode of transport:
How do they spend a rainy day?

Are they a daredevil or cautious?
Do they act the same alone as when with someone?
Greatest Strength:
Greatest Weakness:
Soft spot:
Is their soft spot obvious, why/why not:
If not, how do they hide it:

Type of childhood:
First Memory:
Most important child hood event that still effects him/her:

Relationship with her:
Relationship with him:
Siblings, How many, relationship with each:
Children of siblings:
Other extended family:
Close? Why or why not:

Most at ease when:
Most ill at ease when:
How they feel about themselves:
Past failure they would be embarrassed to admit:
If granted one wish what would it be, why?


Optimist or pessimist? Why?
Introvert or extrovert? Why?
Drives and motives:
Extremely skilled at:
Extremely unskilled at:
Good characteristics:
Character flaws:
Biggest regret:
Biggest accomplishment:
Darkest secret:
Does anyone know?


One word they would use to describe themselves:
One paragraph of how they would describe themselves:
What do they consider their best physical characteristic and why:
The worst one? Why?
Are they realistic assessments?
How they think others preserve them:
What four things would they most like to change about themselves:
Would changing of number 1 make them more happy? Why/why not:

How do they relate to others:
How are they perceived by strangers:
The Hero/Heroine:
How do they view the Hero/Heroine:
First impression of the char:
What happens to change this perception:
What do people like most about this char:
What do they dislike most about them: 

Long term:
How do they plan to accomplish them:


How do they react in a crisis:
How do they face problems:
Kind of problems they usually run into:
How they react to new problems:
How they react to change: 

Favorite clothing, why:
Least favorite, why:
Other accessories:
Where do they live:
Where do they want to live:
Spending habits, why:
What do they do too much of, why:
Most prized possession, why:
People they secretly admire, why:
Person they are most influenced by, why:
Most important person in their life before story starts, why:
How do they spend the week just before the story starts:

And there you have it.  Why is it called the Form of Doom?  Because I felt like it.  Why not?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Character Development 101 Part Uno: 100 Things

Are you having trouble developing a character?  Do any of your current ones seem flat and one-dimensional?  I might be able to help you with that.

We’ve all read a book with that character who is unlikable, unbelievable, and has no point whatsoever in the story.  You wish the antagonist would just come along and chuck them in a lake.  You don’t want your characters to be like that, but sometimes it’s so hard to make them come to life.  Here’s an activity to work on that.

It’s simple, really.  All you do is make a list of 100 declarative sentences about whatever character is giving you trouble.  Sounds easy, right?  Just wait until you try it.

A declarative sentence is a sentence that states something about your character.  These can be simple, like stating hair color or height.  Or they can be more complex, like a character’s greatest fear.  Here are some examples that I did for Davi, my main character in Secrets of the Legend Chaser.

  1. Davi has brown hair.
  2. Davi has blue eyes.
  3. Davi is left-handed.

Those are all very simple and straightforward.  You’ll have no trouble with those.  Now you need to dig a little deeper.

  1. Davi gets really sarcastic when he’s afraid.
  2. Davi hates conflict with others.
  3. Davi always had a lack of close childhood friends.
  4. Davi is a pathetic archer.

Get it?  Good.  I’ve found that this activity really helps you get to know a character, as well as discover things you never knew about them.  Who would’ve known that Davi hates weddings?

Before you get too far, you should know that this activity has a few ground rules:

Don’t spend more than seven sentences on physical appearance.
If one of yours is Yealdidfngklas’dlkd has brown hair, don’t go on to say Yealdidfngklas’dlkd’s hair is very long.  That’s cheating.  Combine all related sentences.
If a sentence takes up more than one line in your notebook/word processer, it’s too detailed.  Or your font is too big, I guess…
You’re allowed one sentence stating that your character is awesome.  But only one, and rephrasing anything is cheating.

But, Annie, that means I have to type all the numbers from one to a hundred!  Guess I won’t do it, then.  Nope, sorry.  Guess what?  There’s this thing called autoformat.  It’ll do that for you after two or so lines.  Nice try.

The first ten should be a breeze.  After twenty you’ll be thinking that this is way too easy to be any help.  You should be able to get to about fifty without too much trouble.  At eighty you’ll want to slam your head into a wall.  At ninety you’ll consider giving up.  At ninety-five you’ll walk away, because you have something else you need to do anyway.  Trust me, you’ll get to a hundred.  You can do it!

Hopefully you’ll learn a lot about your characters.  Some of it is completely random and will never make its way into your book.  I don’t think the fact that Davi hates it when people stroke their beards thoughtfully will have a use in my book.  But some of it you’ll end up using, and then you’ll be grateful you did it.

If you try this, I’d love it if you told us how it went in the comments!

PS: I dare you to use the name Yealdidfngklas’dlkd in your story.

PPS: Uno means one in Spanish.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finn’s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prison’s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finn’s and Claudia’s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesn’t fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finn’s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron. They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.
First Look: ***** I love how my computer doesn't even try to spellcheck the title.  I knew from the start that this would be awesome.  The cover is cool, but not as much as Incarceron.  *clicks little red line under Incarceron, adds to dictionary*
Setting:***** Um...Did someone call up the author and tell her my favorite settings?  The best settings are: Castles with royalty and intrigue, messed up dystopias that are creepy because you could totally see our society turning into that, and steampunk worlds that are...steampunkish (Yeah, I just made up a new word.  As in, gears, weird gadgets, and other stuff.).  Castles?  Check.  Dystopia?  Check.  Steapmunkness?  Check. What does that mean?  It means that I wish I could give this setting seven stars.  I love it.  The idea of Protocol is fantastic, and I love how Incarceron was personified. 
Characters:***** Because even the most awesome books have flaws, here is the one four-star rating.  I liked Finn in the first book, but in this one he was just whiny and needed to get over his problems.  I mean, he's got his "episodes", but he still could be a little less annoying.  Other than that, the characters were great and well-developed.  Even Incarceron, the prison itself, made a fabulous character.  Jared remains my favorite, and where he ended up at the end was so fitting for him.
Plot:***** Awesome.  Just awesome.  I loved the added elements of the magician.  The legends of Sapphique were some of my favorite parts of the first book, so of course I liked how this book ended.  It was full of twists and turns and things you'd never see coming.  The Pretender reminded me of my own book.  The story was dark in places, and gritty all around, as a good steampunk book should be.
Cliché-ness:***** Totally unique.  You can be almost completely sure that it's unlike anything you've ever read before.
Writing:***** It's weirdly poetic all the way through.  The way the chapters and points of view were broken up made it even more suspenseful. 

Likes: Everything?  Close to it.  I really like the ending.  I'm not sure now if there will be a sequel, though; it would work either way.

Not-so-great: If you're not careful and you're not paying close attention, the ending will make you really confused, so watch out.
Total Score:***** Will this be on the top ten list for 2011?  I think so.  Read it, but read Incarceron first!  It'll appeal to fantasy fans, dystopia fans, steampunk fans, and probably others.  So many reviews use the phrase I couldn't put it down,'s really true with this book.  There's a lot of action and emotion.  How many times can spellcheck yell at me during a single review?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Light Up the Sky by The Afters

Genre: Christian pop/alternative

First Look: ****I discovered this band through Susie magazine (formerly Brio).

Vocals: *****  Awesome. Really. And they have just proved that Justin Bieber isn't the only one who can have a high voice (that's a compliment, mind you. It's only for one song.).

Music: *****  I love songs with good piano parts, and that...pretty much describes this whole album. Add violins and more piano, and all the usual pop stuff (technical term, there), and you've got a recipe for awesome.

Cleanness: ***** Well, yeah. It's Christian. :)

Lyrics: ***** Whoever writes these songs is talented. They're uplifting and tell a story. They actually mean something, which is more than what a lot of today's artists can say.

Uniqueness: ****They're a little like OneRepublic. Well, actually, a lot, but that's okay because OneRepublic is my favorite artist of all time.

My Favorite Song: Right now, Runaway is number one. Why? Because it fits perfectly with Secrets of the Legend Chaser! It's rare to come across something that fits so well. Say It Now is a close second.

Likes: Ah...I think it's all been said up there. ^

Dislikes: None that I can think of now.

Overall: *****  Buy it, if you're looking for a OneRepublicish contemporary Christian band. It's current, but not edgy and they actually sing (rather than rap). What more could you want?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Intro to Music Reviews

I'm going to try an experiment. Pretty soon I'm going to start posting music reviews whenever I buy a CD. Like the book reviews, they'll be separated into categories. Unlike the book reviews, however, they won't be as in-depth, because I know more about writing books than making popular music.

Genre: This won't be a star rating. It's just to let you know what kind of music it is.

First Look: Is the cover cool? Was I really excited to get this? (Keep in mind that most of these ratings will be buy, because I like to be fairly sure I'll love something before I buy it.)

Vocals: Does the artist have an awesome voice? *coughRyanTeddercough* Do his/her/their songs show that?

Music: By this, I'm referring to the instruments other than voices. Did it sound cool? Were there too many other instruments, too few?

Cleanness: This will always be five stars for me, because I only buy perfectly clean music. I just feel like I need to include that for others.

Lyrics: Were the words interesting and poetic *coughRyanTedderagaincough*, or were they boring and just like every other song?

Uniqueness: How much does this artist make themselves stand out from the crowd?

My Favorite Song: Self-explanatory.

Likes: Again, this needs no explaining.

Dislikes: And yet again.

Overall: Here I'll discuss my final thoughts about it, and whether or not I'd recommend it.

Keep in mind that this is an experiment. I may keep it up, I may not. :)  Also, I need to give you a heads-up right now: I'll probably end up comparing everything I buy to OneRepublic.  That's just how I am.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Yes, I'm writing in pink today.  I thought it would be appropriate.  Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Or in some cases (like me), happy Singles Awareness Day!

I know of a quote that perfectly sums up what love is.  It's by...wait for it...Dr. Seuss.  Dr. Seuss has something deep to say about love?  One fish, two fish, I love you fish?  Not quite.  Here it is:

"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love." -Dr. Seuss

And there you have it.  Here's a picture to go with it(EDIT: I took the picture out.  I just had too many Google Image hits on it, and I wasn't sure what people would be doing with that picture, and I really didn't want it to be stolen because I took it and all, so sorry guys.), because it's day of love, and I love music.  And because, "Ah, music.  A magic beyond all we do here."  If you don't know who said're missing out big time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Live in a Winter Wonderland

 That's right.  Because it's February and all the snow will be gone soon, I'd like to share some pictures I've taken.  These were all taken recently in my yard.  

This is the only art I can do.

This one's probably my personal favorite of all the snow pictures.  

What do you think, Oh Faithful Blog Followers of Awesomeness? 

On a few other random notes:
1. I'm reading Sapphique right now.  UH-MAZE-ING!  I'm dying (not literally) to finish it.  You have to check it out.
2. 'I'll Make a Man Out of You' from Mulan is a great song.  One of Disney's best.  And now it's stuck in your head.  Yes, I am responsible for that.  No, I'm not sorry.  Enjoy. :)
3. I have a Speech tournament tomorrow.  Go Raiders!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Sword and the Flame (Dragon King Trilogy #3) by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Sword and the FlameSometimes the greatest evil lies within.

The Dragon King who rules the land of Mensandor is none other than Quentin, whose courage and heroism have slowly transformed him from an orphaned servant into a war hero, respected leader, and a fierce man of faith.

But even the powerful can fall prey to weakness. The world is turned upside-down when the dark sorcerer Nimrood--long thought dead after a battle with the previous Dragon King--returns with a fearsome plan. Shattered by the death of a dear and trusted friend, the abduction of his beloved son, and the loss of his enchanted sword, Quentin finds his faith tested like never before.

In The Sword and the Flame, the final volume of Stephen R. Lawhead's captivating Dragon King Trilogy, the fate of the entire world depends on the outcome of this climactic battle between good and evil.
First Look: *****Of course, the first two were amazing, so I knew this had to be amazing too. My cover (the reddish and white one) is okay, but while searching for an online picture I found this other one, which is cooler. I'm posting both because I can.
Setting: ***** I want to live in this world. No joke. That's how good it is. As I read I could vividly see it all around me.
Characters: ***** Awesome. That's the best word to sum it up. They were all very complex, and even Quentin's crazy mood swings/spazz moments were believable. Prince Gerrin is adorable.
Plot: ***** Um, this is epic fantasy. How can it not have a killer plot? This is better than the first two combined, plotwise. 
Cliché-ness: ***** Quentin broke a stone altar. I do believe Aslan did that too. Other than that, it was fine.
Writing: ***** All writers seriously need to read this. It's like taking a crash course in using powerful description. Now, if only I could write like that...

The Sword and the Flame (The Dragon King Trilogy, #3)Likes: I loved the added spiritual-ness of this third book.  The first two books had some pretty serious religious symbolism, but this one threw out the symbolism and wove God directly into the storyline.  It really brought the whole thing together.  So if you have something against Christian books, don't even bother with this.

Not-so-great: Here it is again.  There's a castle steward guy named Oswald.  Why?  And these other covers are cooler than mine.  (that one's mine -->)
Total Score: ***** Yes, of course I would recommend this!  Beautiful writing, an epic plot, awesome characters...what's not to love?  And it's the best kind of fantasy.  Read it, unless you don't want the religiousness. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Write What You Love

At some point in their life, every author has asked this question:

"What should I write?"

I hope you weren't expecting some long complicated answer, because you won't get one.  The only answer is write what you love.

Think about books for a second.  Think of your favorite books.  What kind of books make you stay up late after bedtime, thinking  just one more more chapter...and it turns into three hours?  For me, it depends, but in this case I'll say epic fantasies.  I love the adventure, magic, and just plain awesomeness of Lord of the Rings-style sagas.  I like dragons and wizards and cool stuff like that. 

Is that what I'm writing?  Pretty much!  Well, it's not on the same all-out war level of fantasy as LOTR.  But it has dragons get it.

What you should never, ever do is write on a trend.  Dystopias are popular now, sure, but publishing is sloooow, and by the time you're even done writing the trend will be long past.  It's already starting to die, and that's a problem for your super-trendy book.  I wouldn't have wanted to be the author of Twilight's agent right after the book's huge success.  Just imagine how many people sent her their vampire romance novels just because Twilight did well!  Never write something just because you think it will sell well.  Fantasy novels aren't the trend right now, but I'm writing one just because I love it that much.

Here's a good rule of thumb: If you were a reader and saw your book at the library (or bookstore, for the germophobics), would you pick it up?  Would you like your own story? If no, chances are you aren't writing what you should be writing.  Do you, as the author, enjoy your own story?  If not, your readers will pick up on that, and they won't enjoy it either.

So, here's my say on what you should write: Write what you love.  Write the story that wants to be told.  Write the words that keep you up at night, distract you during class, and run through your head all the way home.  Write a story you truly enjoy.  Write the book that keeps coming back, long after you've told yourself to forget about it.

Because anyway, it's your story, so nobody else can tell it better than you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.
First Look: ***** This was another book won in an Inkpop Weekly Writing Challenge.  I love this cover, so in case you're wondering, that's why it's so big.  And it's cooler in real life because it's shiny! (the paperback version is nice too)

Setting: *****   A book set in Jackson Hole! I went there on vacation a few years ago, and the author captured it nicely.
Characters: ***** I don't know what it was, but I didn't feel for them. The main character, Clara, was too much of a Mary Sue (in other words, she was plain and average), and she adjusted to her new school awfully fast. And why did Christian suddenly like her when before he barely noticed her? The only character that really had depth was Angela. 
Plot: ***** I loved the whole concept of this book! The premise of part-angels and their powers was awesome. I really hope the sequel explores all of that more. I enjoyed the parts where she went skiing. However, the ending was rushed. Authors should never shy away from climatic and exciting endings!

Cliché-ness: ***** The romance parts were...just like you'd find in any other paranormal. Then again, I'm not much for romance, but it still wasn't great. Other than that it was unique.
Writing: ****I had a really tough time getting through the first chapter. After that I was fine. I don't think some of the movie references and mentions of things like Facebook will hold up in a few years. That will date the book and confuse readers in the future.

Likes: This book did a really great job of telling a story about angels in a way that won't clash with the Bible. I loved, loved, loved the concept! I won't go as far as to say that this is Christian fiction, but Christian readers will appreciate the faith aspect of it. If you aren't Christian, you'll still enjoy the read. And the fish joke still amuses me.

Not-so-great: I thought the family's opinion of destiny didn't seem right. Why didn't the author dig deeper into the idea of Black Wings? And since when is there such thing as a double blue diamond?
Total Score: ***** This is the first angel book I've read. Was it good? Yes. Did I love it? Well, some parts, but the whole thing didn't quite go there for me. I have yet to read a paranormal/supernatural book like this that I completely fell in love with. But I enjoyed it, and most contemporary YA fans probably would too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Superbowl? What Superbowl?

That pretty much sums up my entire attitude towards football.  I suppose if I understood the game, I might like it more...  Most people make a huge deal out of this whole thing.  They invite people over, have a party, and eat lots of Doritos *cringes*.  But really, the World Equestrian Games was last summer.  Did people throw parties and televise that?  No!  Why is football so much different?

And another thing that bothers me: Why do people talk so much about the players?  Oh no!  That Vikings player ate corn and green beans for dinner!  Those are Packers colors!  Ahhh, he's a traitor!  Oh no, that player sent a text to his best friend from high school.  It's a scandal!

I was exaggerating.  But you get the point.  I might watch the Superbowl.  I'll sit down for the commercials and walk away when they play the game.   Either that, or I'll do something productive like work on SotLC.  Hopefully they'll have a Budweiser Clydesdales commercial, because they're...wait for it...horses, and I love horses.

So, whether you watch the game or the commercials or neither, enjoy.

Random note: Don't shoot arrows in the direction of a snowdrift.  They'll disappear.

Finally, I got that post written.  Took me long enough; it's amazing how many times I can get interrupted.
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