What Makes a Character Great?

Today I want to talk about characters because most of all, it’s what drives us to love, hate, despise, or cherish a book or movie.

Writing a good character is hard, writing a great character with massive flaws that is still likable is almost impossible. There are so many characters in random books, movies, TV shows that I love! Many more that I completely hate. The best ones are characters that I hate to love, and love to hate. A well written villain isn’t just cruel and mean for no purpose, there has to be a reason behind their crude tendencies. Same goes for the Protagonist of the story, they have to be as lovable as much as they are frustrating. I feel that too good of a character annoys me, but a character with a blind sense of hatred and pure hate just doesn’t sell it anymore for me. I need to see a reason, I need background, I need there to be purpose.

One thing my beta readers have said to me over and over again while I am working on my book is, “Does this portion have a purpose. Is there a reason that you are saying this? If there is no actual reason, remove it.” I think the same philosophy should apply to characters. There needs to be a reason. Why did they just decide to do Plot Point A? Because when they were younger plot point B lead them to plot point A and here we are! Sometimes that will work, but other times we need a little more “omphf” factor.

My absolute favorite evil character has to be Voldemort. I know I know…”Jessica, enough with the Harry Potter!” I am telling you, I can’t stop obsessing over that series because it was so VERY well written. There was a hefty amount of character development that even as a reader you don’t full see  unless you read the books several times. I think even more so, there is development of characters with details that the reader will never know unless the author decides to share them elsewhere. Voldemort was a really well structured character though, it hit all the markers of being a great villain. He is established as a stricking t3181731-big_voldy_smileerror in all that are against him, he has a deep and rich back history, his character builds and fleshes out in entirety through out the series and the reasoning behind his nature is peppered through out multiple characters perspectives. It was all in all very well done. He also has very human moments, very reactive emotional moments that force the reader and viewer to see that the man himself is flawed no matter how powerful he is. It’s truly a brilliantly written character.

My favorite hero character is more of the optimistic character than really a hero. The main person he saves is himself, but the structure of the character again is captured so eloquently. Now I don’t want to give too much away as the movie is just about to be released, but I have to say that Mark Watney in “The Martian” is probably one of my all time 11429265_109799746023374_1207817214_nfavorite hero characters. The guy is just too amazing to be real. Not only does he have the best optimistic attitude, he is also funny as hell in a situation that he really should be beyond depressed when he sees the outcome of his possible future. (Side note on this novel; The Martian was a self published by author Andy Weir on his own personal blog chapter by chapter and then later went on to sell the full book on Amazon at a starting price of $0.99. THEN….he got a publishing deal, a movie deal with Director Ridley Scott and Lead actor Matt Damon on the ticket. Talk about a success story!!! Go fellow self publisher, you ROCK!)

I take these characters very seriously because in order for me to give my readers an enjoyable novel I have to provide excellent. Now, I am not sure how Voldemort-y my villain is, and my main character isn’t a scientific genius BUT I am hoping to invoke emotion, meaning, and a solid background into each one of my characters to create a really well rounded story.

What about you my peeps? Who are your favorite book/movie/TV characters? I’d really love to hear your thoughts too 🙂

My Great Expectations

Expectations really suck. They aren’t really all that nice either. I wake up living in LA and I expect a beautiful sunny morning. I live in SOCAL, I expect perfect weather. But what I actually get is a humid overly hot sun beating down on my tender Irish skin with unrelenting blazes of pure hellfire! Not what I expected, not what I wanted, now I am sweating and it’s only 8:30 in the morning.

I completely forget where I read this, but I remember a blog/book/magazine article? about how to avoid getting your feelings and emotions destroyed over unattainable expectations. Sometimes I feel like I expect a lot out of people, out of the friends and family I am surrounded by. They most often exceed my expectations and I am lost in a cloud of amazement of their love and generosity. But then…there are the duds. The ones that you only want the simplest thing from…and they fail utterly. Now here is a problem:

I expect Person A to do Task B, but instead Person A gets all up in their head and decides Task B is far far too much for them to even try to tackle. Ugh…Task B was simple, and you failed Person A.

Sometimes I ruin my own expectations. I go to sleep with thoughts of running in the morning. I am going to wake up and be energized and walk my dog! I am going to gobble a handful of almonds and then head out the door into the beautiful morning sunshine and run 5 miles. But….in actuality, I wake up 35 min late, trudge through my apartment like a zombie trying to shake off the hysterically jumping-pug dog off my body long enough to clip on his leash and stumble outside. The sunshine stings my sensitive sleepy eye balls and it’s too damn hot to do much but quickly shuffle from shady spot to shady spot. Ugh, expectations of getting in shape, ruined!

There are days when I just think, “I will expect nothing! I will make no commitments or desires and will think of things only as they happen!” But…how negative is that? I don’t want to go to work with zero expectations, those standards are in place for a reason. I don’t want to live my life without the slightest bit of desire to complete something, I would never stay on task. Living in a world of shattered expectations everyday is miserable yes, but living in one without any? That’s just horrifying.

With two extremes you need a middle ground. I expect the best out of myself and everyone around me. I expect there to be love, trust, loyalty, honesty, communication, and appreciation. I also expect there to be annoyance, frustration, misunderstanding, anger, and disillusionment. At the end of the day I can expect to be let down eventually, but the point of being let down is to not let it get you down. Fall down…get back up. Scrape your knees riding a bike….get back on. Lose faith in your spiritual beliefs…pray and discover how to reconnect. Break a bond of friendship because of miscommunication….talk your way through the issues and work past the hurt. There are ways to work through disappointment of being let down, there are ways to conquer the fear of losing what you want to keep.

I don’t want to live my life in a bubble of fear, never doing something because I am afraid I will be let down. If I just never work out, I will never be let down by not losing weight. NO, I will work out regardless of how much weight I lose because I want to work hard to be healthy. I want to charge into life full throttle with my hand on the trigger screaming, “Throw it at me, if I don’t get what I want, I will blow right past you and onto the next!!” So, being the best Producer in Post Production…bring it on. Getting in shape…I am the only one stopping myself (that and the absence of coffee in the morning….). Getting the life I deserve…I have to work hard to win it. The only expectation that I will never  budge on is to live life and be happy, the rest of ’em….give me your best shot!

Midsummer for the White Irish Girl….lots of sunscreen and smiles

I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly awesome this holiday is. I have a feeling most don’t really know what Midsummer is unless they actually GO to a Midsummer celebration.

I have to start at the beginning though, because there is so many tiny details that I am excited to dive into and share. First, the history.

“In agrarian times, Midsummer celebrations in Sweden were held to welcome summertime and the season of fertility. In some areas people dressed up as ‘green men’, clad in ferns. They also decorated their houses and farm tools with foliage, and raised tall, leafy maypoles to dance around, probably as early as the 1500s. Midsummer was primarily an occasion for young people, but it was also celebrated in the industrial communities of central Sweden, where all mill employees were given a feast of pickled herring, beer and schnapps. It was not until the 1900s, however, that this became the most Swedish of all traditional festivities.” — https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/midsummer/

Really truly though the number one thing that I got a kick out of was the fact that every single Swede I asked, “Why do you do this, what’s the meaning of it?” The response was, “It’s tradition. There really isn’t a reason, we just do it.” Best response ever really.

So to start at the beginning, I took a long bus ride up to San Jose to meet up with my boyfriend (whom for privacy purposes I like to call Bear). To be honest, the bus ride wasn’t so bad. I even had time to work on my Manny, which was great because I desperately needed it! Friday night we spent time eating homemade BBQ and drinking and talking the night away. It was seriously great, and totally relaxing.

The next morning we woke up in a flurried dash to get everyone ready on time. There was quite the amount of SwedeIMG_20150622_163837‘s packed into one beautiful house, but we all managed to get ready and out the door by mid morning. We drove out into the hay filled, rolling hills just South of San Jose and up up up into the mountains into the beautiful back country of Sveadal. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it, nor can I explain the feeling of thinking there is a troll waiting for you around every bend. The trees themselves felt mythical and filled me with a sense of wonder.

Sveadal California

Sveadal California

Once we arrive, Bear and I, we drove through the dusty parking area and happily jumped from our car into the 100 degree heat with fat smiles on our faces. Once we linked up with our group, we dropped our stuff, slathered suntan lotion on my Irish girl skin, and then took off to help decorate the Maypole. My first question, “Why do they call it a Maypole?” The answer of course was, “They just do, it’s tradition.” There is a long historical explanation for this, but truly I love the Swede’s way of explaining this, besides it’s really pretty. They basically decorate a huge pole with flowers for us to later dance around, the why’s really don’t matter. Tradition just is, so why not just decorate and enjoy? And we did!

Once they raised the Maypole out came the traditionally dressed leaders of Midsummer to guide us in the most amazingly amaypolewesome dances I have ever seen. The Little Frogs (Små Grodorna) is a song sung every Midsummer in probably around every maypole in every town in Sweden.  It’s a classic to them, and I could easily see it as every person walked around in a circle around the Maypole singing about a frog that has no ears and no tail. It’s truly adorable and a lot of fun to do with about 100 other adults and kids.

Once we danced and sung around the pole several times, holding hands and then flapping our arms, linking elbows and then dashing back into circle11215793_10207200001782072_569410727074830565_n formation we all split ways to our groups and settled down for lunch.

Most of the day was spent hanging out and telling stories, shopping the jewelry and Swedish clothing stands, and eating some very very tasty traditional Swedish snacks. Along with bagels, lots and lots of bagels.

One of the most well-known facets of Midsummer for me was the wreath oIMG_20150622_163731f flowers for my hair. It’s a MUST to have during Midsummer, all girls proudly wear them and more than half make them themselves. I half cheated and bought a dried flowers one with my awesomely non-swede friend Erica (matching flower girls!) but then added some fresh flowers to my beautiful little tiara because I must join in on the flower decorating fun! The outcome was amazing, and Bear’s mother probably made the best one which she let me wear for a while 🙂

Once it got a bit darker and they did a traditional parade and singing, we all went on a walk around th1907496_10207200002742096_5702118006863470237_ne grounds. Well not all of us, maybe about 30 of us. Bear and I walked along as the walk tour guide talked about the traditions of Sveadal and the history of the people who lived there. It was a really interesting walk, and also really pretty to see. And I did see a Troll! Two in fact!

The best part of the evening for me is when Bear grabbed my hand when the sun went down and we headed to the dance floor. It was really quite magical. There was wooden platform and old fashion styled light bulbs handing from wooden poles giving the night a completely romantic air. I loved it! troll

There were two dances that Bear taught me, both of which was almost impossible to do without my skirt slipping down my butt or my sandals flying off but I did my best and we giggled and laughed through each “adjustment” of clothing after stomping, circling and twirling around the dance floor.

All in all, my first Midsummer was a truly great experience, and the most amazing memory to have. I seriously can’t wait for next year. I am going to brush up on my Swedish singing, learn a dance more or two, and wear the appropriate clothing and shoes next time.

Now, if you truly want to listen to an awesome rendition of what Midsummer is check out this video that Bear showed me, it’s called, “Midsummer for Dummies” and it’s truly right on the money from what I hear.

Until my next adventure, hejdå

“Midsummer for Dummies”

Midsummer has arrived!!

So I’m on my way up to San Jose to spend the weekend with my boyfriend and his family for Midsummer.

What’s Midsummer you say?Midsummer, also known as St John’s Day, or Litha, is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the Northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening.

What it really is though is a wonderful time for families to come together and sing and dance and celebrate the changing of the seasons.  Now this will be my first time and I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am.  The best part of experiencing new cultures and families is how much you learn about people and their life styles.  The number one thing that helps me write great characters is meeting great people. 

I can’t wait for today.  Just wait until I share the pictures!  Today is going to be an amazing day!

Why Are You Yelling At Me?!

I have something not writing related to talk about, it’s more human reaction related which I find just as intriguing as any writing related topic.

Really truly as we walk through our lives we are constantly confronted by people who make great characters for a novel. I recently wrote a blog about finding novel characters in your every day life and how fun it is. There are moments when it’s not so fun because the reaction the person is flinging your way resembles the evil monster character that we all love to loathe.

It’s just hard not to dislike them for the ridiculousness of their attitudes. There is no rhyme or reason really for the way they act, they just say things and do things for the pleasure of it, or because they believe they are justified to act or speak that way.

So several days ago I was confronted, via text message mind you, about something that I had apparently done that upset someone else. I had no idea the person was upset, or even frustrated; so when I was verbally attacked through the monotone text message I was completely thrown off my rocker. More like hurtled off my rocker that was on the tip top peak of a mountain.

Now I won’t go into detail of what was said because that is absolutely pointless. No reason to pick apart the minuet details, more I want to address the action. This wasn’t the first time I had been verbally (via text message) attacked for something that I had no idea was going on. I have tried to be understanding and accepting, but sometimes I have to take a step back and realize that it actually isn’t about me. Sometimes the other person just needs a whipping post because they are pissed off. Sometimes communication isn’t clear or expressed and they freak out because you are supposed to know what they want and need. Sometimes people are just ass monkey’s though…and there is nothing to be done about that. Talking to you WORMTONGUE ——————————>

Anyways, needless to say I was beyond surprised by the words flung at me, and more than a little hurt that someone actually thought I was being inconsiderate and mean. It’s hard, actually almost impossible to be considerate of someone’s needs, wants, and desires if they never let you KNOW what their needs, wants and desires are. Every evil mean annoying character in a book and movie has an agenda, but they also have a need for something. They usually are mean because they don’t communicate what they actually want.

Then again….some want WAY more than they should ever be allowed to have. Like…THE WHOLE WOLRD and that’s just selfish. Can’t always get what you want you know!

So, I would never actually liken the person who bit my head off to any one of these characters shown above, BUT I would say that this person has a tendency to jump into aggressive meanness before calmly looking at the situation at hand. To any person out there who yells before they think, aggressively accuses before hearing the whole story, or who justifies their own feelings with illogical ideas needs to sit back and take a minute to scrutinize themselves.

Do you actually want to be a Regina George? Do you really want to be seen as Draco Malfoy? These people are people we love to hate because they are complete and total pricks for no damn good reason. Perhaps next time you can politely ask for what you need and give the other person a moment to reciprocate that niceness. Now if you tried that and it still didn’t work you can go all Voldemort on their butts.

Character Blog Tour — The Praetorians

This is an older post, but I felt it was a great idea to start with the best of my Blog to get the ball rolling on my new site. A good Blogging friend of mine Ashley Carlson asked if I would like to do a character blog tour with her, and ofcourse I said yes! It’s a really great way to get the best highlights and details about my upcoming novel out in the open. Check it out!

long hair artwork black dress warriors swords paint splatter nanfe_wallpaperswa.com_71

This is going to be fun 🙂

I got nominated by the lovely Ashley Carlson to continue on with the Character Blog Tour. It’s an honor to be nominated and I will carry the torch into writing awesomeness!

For the last four years I have been writing, re-writing, throwing away and starting over, and writing again. I had this idea that just popped in my head one night of a woman struggling to find her identity and in the chaos of her world she overcomes the impossible. Vague I know…but at the time it was mainly a really bad ass fight scene that I couldn’t get out of my brain. (Which is at the very end of book one 😉 In my mind she had finally reached her point of no return, she had to fight to stand for what she believed in, and OH MY LORD DOES SHE! (Can’t spoil my own book now though can I!?) After three years of pulling together the idea and plot, and one year of writing until my fingers bled (thank you Laura and Melaina! That lunch that one day was totally much needed BTW) and then several more months of edits, reading, re-reading, re-writing, and CHANGING A CHARACTERS NAME!!! I finally had a novel. A polished beautiful 140,000ish word novel. Holy crap guys, I’m A WRITER! (there are a lot of shouty caps in this post, but I’m not going to apologize for my enthusiasm).

Now…time to get to the point. The Character Blog Tour…let’s get this baby rolling….(and I have a secret surprise at the end, but first the Character Blog!)

The main character of my novel is Camille Scipio, a seemingly average 17 year old girl that harbors a dangerous past, most of which she can’t remember. Suffering from acute amnesia, she wakes in a strange village filled with questions about her identity, where she came from, and most of all why she seems to be so superior over the average human. She can run a mile in under three minutes, hunt like a true predator, and handle a sword like it’s an extension of her body. Everything crashes down on her revealing broken memories of her past threatening to reveal the monster she harbors inside. The idea for Camille came from several different aspects, but I owe a lot of my inspiration to Muse. The first scene popped into my head after listening to Knights of Cydonia one night before I was going to bed. The filled out version of the story really took root after listening to their albums…on repeat….for several months. The next spark of inspiration came after I re-watched the first Bourne Identity movie. I loved the idea of massive struggle in searching for an identity. I think about my own identity a lot, who I am and what I want to be, and using the plot point of not knowing your past is a fun way to pick through the memories you choose to highlight to fully form a character from the start of the story to the climax. I think this allows the readers a chance to learn and grow with the lead character because they are finding out more just as Camille does.

The setting of this story is its own world similar to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Though there is horseback traveling, town like atmosphere’s and basic 1700 village structure; there is also technology, electricity, travel by dirigible, and high tech weaponry. The main geography of Aspera (the Kingdom of where Camille lives) is laid out in a circle separated into nine Colonies. Each Colony has its own social structure, and I would very much place it in a guide line of Game of Thrones. Simple, yet very technologically minded within the constructs of what the world has to offer.

Camille mainly struggles with the fear of her unknown past and not knowing who or what she is. She knows she committed a horrible crime and endures jarring flashes of past memories but she can’t understand what they mean or what to do about them. She is stubborn out of embarrassment and grows increasingly confused by a growing power within her that seems to take over her mental state when her emotional range bursts into heightened territory. It doesn’t help that on top of struggling with identity crisis, she is also trying to save her people from oppression from the overbearing cruelty of High King LeMarc, and figure out the maze of emotions attacking her from every angle when in the presence of her love interest. Most of what I want to highlight about Camille is that in a lot of ways, she is like every one of us, struggling to find who we are in the present chaos of our day to day lives.

Camille’s main external conflict is struggling to find her place in a world that doesn’t really have a place for her. She is a love interest, a friend, a daughter, a savior, a warrior, and a born killer. Throughout the novel she arcs toward understanding of who and what she is only to have it obliterated by circumstantial tragedies. Camille’s biggest internal conflict to overcome is learning control of herself, her emotions, and knowing what she is capable of.

The first novel is called: The Praetorians. It’s not available yet as I am still working through the editing process, but I am hoping to get this one published soon. I am giving myself until the end of the year to find an agent, and if I can’t by then I am going to go about the process of self-publishing. So if you know of anyone looking for a book like mine to promote, send them my way! I want to say this will end up being a trilogy, I definitely have enough in my mind to make the story last a good long while. So far there is book 1, the outline of book two, and the synopsis of a book 3. We will see where I go after that. There is so much more to come after Book 1!