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Season Sense

If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong.  Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.

My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already.  So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.

Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lecture, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world, and ‘Wala’  I think I came up with unique tutorial for our awesome followers.

When we think of seasons we contemplate visions of spring, summer, autumn and winter and all the elements that make them unique. But for today, we’re going to think of seasons in term of our character’s lives. (Now, I have Paul Anka singing ‘The Times Of Your Life’ strumming through my head. Here. I’ll share the link to the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBqRXl1ku1o)

Okay. Focus on the topic, AJ. I didn’t have this problem a decade ago. Keep that in mind as you read on.

People in different seasons of their lives have very different points of view on just about everything. I know I think differently than my children on many topics, including viewing their texting to friends while talking to me as multitasking. I also have a different point of view than my parents on many subjects.  We’ve all heard the term generation gap.

However, age is not the only factor that determines our mind set.  My views are not always agreed upon by friends who are my age. Everyone’s  POV has been shaped by many dynamics such as; their racial background, their educational level, the region in which they live, their talents, their experiences with others (job or social networking), past and present world events, handling health issues, religion, and their relationships with family members, to name a few.  To make characters really come to life we need to know which forces molded them—back story.

A woman of ninety who has been totally blessed all her life is going to look at death differently than a girl of sixteen. And a girl of sixteen who has been blessed will face death differently than a girl whose life has abused by her father over and over and over.

A man who has a family who depends on him to support them is going to go into a job interview with a different mindset than a man who has no one but himself to worry about. And a woman is going to have a totally different mentality.

Two homeless families will have a different outlook on their future because of their relationship with each other and their faith in God.

Two men hear gunfire. One is a hunter. The other is a vet who has seen the worse side of humanity.  Each will react differently to the discharge.

A person who has never had a new car is going to feel differently about their new Chevy Caviler than the person who buys a new Porsche every year.

Those are simply examples, but I think you get my drift.  Just for fun let’s twist one.

A person who has never had a new car is going to feel differently about their new Chevy Caviler than the person who buys a new Porsche every year. As written you would assume the man with the Caviler would be more upset with a fender bender than the man who buys a Porsche.  But what if the guy with the Caviler has forever had fender benders and has a buddy who always helps him to repairs his cars and the man buys a Porsche every year but he does it for his boss, who is now going fire him because of the accident.

Every aspect of a character’s life is going to affect their actions and reactions to conflict.  Their POV is also governed by their back story.  A person whose family always communicated and talked differences out will probably handle disagreements in the same manner, but a person who was raised in an unsettling atmosphere might react violently.

I remember cleaning for my grandmother and finding dozens of pieces if cardboard in the shape of maybe six inch ruler. Each had many different colored threads spooned around them.  The threads were extras or came off of clothing that had been undone.  She also kept sheets of used aluminum foil of all different sizes in a box. They were to be reused.  My grandmother lived through the great depression.

Each season of life as well as how much we have been seasoned influences our POV and fuels our motivation. So it should be for our character.

41 responses to “Season Sense”

  1. Jenn! says:

    Great reminder that characters are complex humans, each with their own experiences in life that shape them into who they are.

    Wonderful blog, Autumn!

    Jenn!

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    • Thanks, Jenn. Complex, unique characters are the reason the same plot line can be done over and over without the same result. Example; Sleep Beauty and While You Were Sleeping.

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  2. Nancy Weeks says:

    Great post! My parents live through the depression. My mom always said, “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Great lesson. Thanks for reminder to get to know my characters from all sides.

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    • That is a great line, Nancy! Just imagine the possibilites for characterization. Not only someone who lived through the depression, but a grandchild raised by them. A researcher of the era. Someone who get’s thrown back in time or some one thrown into a dystopian future. My grandfather always said, “One day you won’t be able to afford a loaf of bread and the richest man on earth will be the farmer, or the guy with a clean well.” Wise.

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  3. Liz Talley says:

    Yay! I got in! I’ve been having a devil of a time and could only comment on my phone…which stunk because it takes me forever to compose on that thing.

    Wonderful post, Autumn, and it comes at a good time for me. As soon as I get back from Dr. this am, I’m going to finish my book. I’m on last chapter 🙂 But then I have to go back and reexamine my character arc which dovetails nicely with this post. Sometimes an author tries to override a character with her feelings, but if you’re writing authentic characters, they have to have their own perspectives in various situation. I constantly remind myself “That’s what you would do, Liz. Now what would HE do?” and that can be hard.

    Thanks for the timely post!

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    • “That’s what you would do, Liz. Now what would HE do?”

      Excellent point, Liz. We pour so much of ourselves into our stories (that’s why they’re called our babies) and we forget we need to come at it from our characters POV, drawing from their core being. That is why I love to interview my characters and keep that interview handy.

      Yeah, you, on finishing the book. A bet it’s awesome. WINK

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  4. Rita Henuber says:

    Oh my goodness. Great post. This very thing was on my mind last night. Experiences shape everything . This is exactly why 50 authors can be given the exact same details, be asked to write a story and each result would be completely different. I think experience is what forms our voice. Thanks Autumn.

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  5. Hope Ramsay says:

    Autumn,

    Your wonderful post is quite timely. I was just checking in with Rubies this morning before turning my attention to the WIP and my somewhat problematic hero. He has turned into a very complicated person, because of his backstory and personal makeup. So complicated, in fact, that I worry that readers may not like him at first. I was thinking about changing him this morning — and that requires changing his background. Thank goodness I’m only at the beginning of the story. I hate to think about how complicated it would be to change a character as much as I intend to change this guy, if I had finished the book. Because he is a product of his backstory.

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    • You’re welcome, Hope. I’m sure you’re going to embellish his one good trait. The one that will make the heroine fall for him. You are so great at doing that. Your readers are going to see it too and stick by his side. I just know it.

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    • Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s heroes are NEVER likeable at the beginning of the story, and we and the heroines always LOVE them by the end. An anti-hero can actually suck a reader in because they want to find out why he’s behaving like such a jerk and how you’re going to redeem a guy who seems so nonredeemable.

      Remember the old Harlequin romances? The hero was always brooding and mysterious and not very nice. And little by little the heroine peeled away his prickly layers to find the sweet man inside. If ever there was a FORMULA for romance, that’s it–the heroine polishing a rough stone into the gem every woman would love to find.

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  6. Great reminder, Autumn, that just as our life experiences shape us, our characters’ would shape theirs as well. I think I forget this from time to time, so I needed this. It also helps give them strong believable motivations.

    Thanks again! Off to check my current wip!

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    • Tina, I’m sure you have a unique view from many of our readers on many subjects simply because of where you live, which can add that certain something awesome to your characters. Glad I could help you this morning.

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  7. Great post, Autumn. All of our characters’ experiences and back-stories are what gives them depth and makes them three dimensional and unique.

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  8. June Love says:

    Autumn, I’m in the process now of re-evaluating my characters, so this is a timely blog for me. It reminds me to concentrate on their surroundings, their issues, their background.

    Not only is it a good lesson for us in regards to our characters, but it’s a good lesson for us in our everyday lives. When someone’s reaction rubs us the wrong way, then perhaps we should walk a mile in their shoes.

    Thanks for an enlightening post!

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  9. Love this, Autumn. I’m struggling to figure out my hero in my new WIP. He doesn’t want to talk to me. I’m starting to get some backstory, but only through what my other characters know about him. Then it hit me, he’s an intensely private/introverted guy. Hmmm… He wants to make me work for it. 😉

    Your thoughts on seasons remind me of what I label “worldview” – maybe that goes back to my counselor roots, but I’ve always believed a person’s worldview is shaped by their experiences as well as their DNA (how they are predisposed to interact with the world, personality, etc.).

    You’ve really got me thinking this morning. Thanks!

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    • You brought up another interesting point, Anne. What other characters think of the POV person. Interview them and then go back and tell him what they said. He’ll open up.

      I did this with one of villians. I learned alot about every character.

      Worldview. Hmmmm. That is interesting that DNA could come into play with our outlook. I’ve always thought of babies as clean slates. We need to talk about this some more. WINK

      Glad I could help.

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      • I see patterns in people’s personalities – bubbly versus Droopy Dog versus whatever – and I think genetics has some part in that. I mean, moods are influenced by neurotransmitters and hormones and all kinds of biological stuff, which can’t help but influence how a person feels, thinks, etc. How they experience their lives (through what lens) shapes how the experience is perceived, and what impact it has. (IMHO, of course.)

        Yes, definitely need to talk more. *WINK* Back atcha. 😉

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  10. Love this, Autumn! It’s so true that our experiences influence our writing. I’m a much different writer now and I can see how the things I’ve gone through in the last couple of years have changed and shaped my writing. And I love how you show that the same can be applied to our characters. Definitely something to keep in mind when developing our characters!

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    • I hear you, lady. I know my outlook has changed many times, but so much more in the last two years. And as it has for us, it can for characters because of their circumstances.

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  11. Gwyn says:

    Love this, AJ. As Shrek would say, “Layers. Like an onion.” The sediment of our lives molds itself around us, changing how we perceive and are perceived. I’ve never actually given the concept conscious thought, but believe a good writer always adds the dimension of time and experience. Excellent post.

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    • I love Shrek! I would’ve married him in a minute.

      Knowing what is playing out on the world stage during your story, is very important. Whether we realize it or not, world events steer our attitudes and reactions. Y2K?

      Thanks, lady.

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  12. Elise Hayes says:

    Thanks for a great post, AJ!

    One thing I sometimes do when revising a story is shift the POV character. For instance, if I’ve been in the heroine’s POV for three scenes in a row, I might go back to that middle scene and say, “hmm…what would this look like from the hero’s perspective? How does he feel about/think about what’s happening? And I’m always amazed at how *different* the scene is from that new POV (and, if it’s my first draft of the book, I often realize that there are important aspects of the character that I don’t know enough about yet, if I am struggling to figure out how they would react).

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  13. Tamara Hogan says:

    Great post, Autumn. I find this to be a useful concept when writing antagonists or villains. Unless the antagonist is a very rare pure psychopath, there’s always a motivation for what the antagonist does – even if it’s outside my range of personal experience. As a writer, it’s my job to find that reason, and to convey it in a three-dimensional manner.

    Villains are the heroes of their own stories, after all. 😉

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  14. Addison Fox says:

    Autumn:

    What a fantastic post! It actually brings to mind a scene in the new JD Robb book, DELUSION IN DEATH. I just read it last night so the scene’s fresh in my mind. I won’t spoil it for others as it was a really special passage, but suffice it to say, Eve is gobsmacked by how Summerset views her.

    As a reader I loved it and as a writer it stopped me and I re-read it a few times for what a special piece of characterization it was.

    Addison

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    • Oh, now I want to read. Nora./J.D. is so awesome at characters. I’ve listen to her works on audio and you really, really fall for the characters. It’s like you’re in the room with them, listening, watching, feeling.

      Thanks, Addison. I’ll have to check Delusion In Death out.

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  15. Kate Parker says:

    Great post, Autumn. Makes me think of the world view of the person who made up the “Keep calm and carry on” slogan. Me? I’m more likely to put a hole in the ozone. Different characters will have different styles, which makes for some fun reading.

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  16. I love this post. It reminds me of something I think about quite often, and that’s that no two people read the same book. I get comments from readers who picked up on something in one of the Charley books that I never gave a second thought to. Usually, if people are going to write you about something, it will be about something that bothered them. And it can be very small from a line to a movement to decision the character makes. One never knows what will leave a sour note with a reader because of his or her past experiences.

    It’s rather fascinating actually. And naturally applying that kind of depth to our characters can only help create that bond for the reader we so desperately seek.

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  17. Interesting post Autumn!

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  18. Nice post and a helpful reminder to always keep scope. Thanks, Autumn!

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