Monday, June 1, 2015

Guest Post with Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh

Today, I have a guest post with Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh. All of us know about Alex’s super human powers and the way he zips around hundreds of blogs everyday leaving comments and helping his fellow blog buddies in numerous ways. In this post the Amazon Bestselling Author of four books: CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm and the latest – Dragon of the Stars, will share tips on building characters in stories.


Don’t Lose Sight of the Characters

Most writers tend to generate a lot of ideas for stories. Something triggers a concept or a basic plot. Maybe a place or image inspires a setting. Multiple thoughts of where a story could go start running through our heads. What if this happened? What if that happened? What if we threw in this plot twist?

In the midst of all this, we can’t forget what is important – the characters.

Now, some stories are more plot driven while others are more character driven. In either case, the characters still need to be fully developed. They need to be real to the reader or it won’t matter what happens in the story. This applies to both heroes and villains. But how do we make them real? How do we make the reader identify and connect with the characters?

Here are some of the things I consider when developing a character:

What is his history? What happened to him before the story even begins? Most of this will never end up in the story, but it helps to know a character’s humble beginnings.

How has this shaped him? What kind of person is he now? Both nurturing and trauma can really affect a person.

What are his goals in life? What drives this character? This is often a big factor in the story.

Knowing his past, what are his strengths and weaknesses? Where has he learned to excel? What part of him still needs work? Everyone is good at something and everyone has issues.

How does this character change? What is his character arc? Real people change over time, for better or worse. Whatever happens in the story will definitely change the character. Plan for it. How does he change over the course of the story?

My stories tend to be character driven. I have an idea of what will happen and usually the ending comes to me first. Then I want to know – how did the character get to that point? What adjustments and decisions did he make during the course of the story? It’s fun to work backwards and see how far a character has come from his raw beginnings.

What do you do to bring your characters to life?

Dragon of the Stars
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
Dancing Lemur Press, LLC http://www.dancinglemurpress.com/
What Are the Kargrandes? http://whatarethekargrandes.com/


The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Purchase:

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.


Here is wishing Alex loads of luck from all of us.


58 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hi Alex, you are welcome. It was a pleasure letting you take over my blog :)

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  2. Making the character believable is a huge challenge every author faces. Good tips, there. I try to model my characters based on real-life people I know.

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  3. Characters are usually what stays with me after I'm done reading a book or a story. If they haunt me, then the author did a great job. :)

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  4. I make the character worksheet. I agree knowing where they come from and their dreams helps.

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  5. I love character driven stories. Usually when I come up with ideas for stories, it's the characters that come to me first. They mingle in my head, growing and usually becoming more demanding as time goes on! Yet even as I'm writing, they tend to surprise me.

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    1. The characters always come to me first as well.

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  6. Without characters there wouldn't be story!

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  7. Characters drive the story, we can't forget about them or as Bish said...there wouldn't be a story.

    Nice post, Alex and Rachna! :)

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    1. Hi Chrys, I knew that Alex would come up with an awesome post!

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  8. Characters need tons of depth, and the questions to ask are great.

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  9. That's one reason I like Alex's writing so much - even though I'm not a sci fi fan. His characters are so human. And I have crushes on them too, but I couldn't compete with Athee. Then again, no human could.

    Thanks, Alex and Rachna.

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    1. Thanks, Robyn! And Athee is tough to beat.

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    2. Thanks Robyn, Alex's tips are amazing, aren't they?

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  10. I usually think of my characters first with just a vague idea of a plot and then it grows from there. Like you, I figure out their history before I start writing.

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  11. Lots of useful tips on characters. My problem is to get those pesky little critters out of my head and onto the screen--in tact.

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    Replies
    1. Those first drafts are tough for me as well.

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  12. I like characters that are rounded - not too good or too bad. I think that makes them more believable and interesting.

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  13. I think another thing you have to consider is how characters interact with other characters, how good their people skills are and what sort of relationships they like to form.

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  14. I totally second what Madeline said. The characters are what stay with me long after I've forgotten all of the plot details.
    Great suggestions, Alex.

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  15. Characters make the story for me...reading or writing. In shorts, the arc is miniscule, but it must be there and it must be credible. The backstory is even more important to work out because while it may not be explicit, without it the character doesn't feel real. Useful pointers here, thanks.

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    1. Yes, because you won't have time to show much back story in a short piece, so you need to know it well.

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  16. Great to see you here, Alex! I've known the ending first a few times. But I always know the ending before I start writing. I have to know where I'm going.

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    Replies
    1. I'd get lost if I didn't know where I was going.

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  17. I think I'm a character driven type of reader and writer. Sometimes I'll fall in love with a character and just put up with the rest of the story. I read a series where I listerally went through all four just to see what was going on with the one character I liked from the first book.
    As for my writing, I try really hard to fully develop all my characters by developing timelines and back or side stories for them, that usually end up in companion guide.
    Great tips and ideas Alex!

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    1. Toi, a good character can really carry you through a story.

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  18. The characters are what make books memorable. My characters usually take longer to develop than the plot, but keeping their history--and the history of their world--in mind as well as what their growth is helps add depth to the characters.

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    1. Yes it does! Continue to take your time.

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  19. Good advice on developing characters.

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  20. Excellent character tips, Alex. Appreciate your insight. Rachna, thanks for hosting today. :)

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    1. Hi Karen, it was a pleasure to host Alex :)

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  21. Great tips for the Ninja! I tend to discover the most about my characters when I actually write the story. That's why it's hard for me to plan because I don't know what these people are going to do. :)

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  22. I've found that once the characters come alive, they can take over the story telling and plotting and make my job easier. Or else that's just my capacity for delusions acting up.

    Seriously, Alex, this is good advice. Knowing the character's history before writing his or her story is essential.

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  23. Basically, I treat my characters like people I have to get to know. It really helps me to nail down even the subtleties a lot of people tend to miss.

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  24. I'm much better at character than plot. Plot comes as a quick sketch and is manipulated the more I get the know the characters. Character leads every time. :) Great post Alex. X

    shahwharton.com

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  25. Great advice you got going there, really interesting stuff!

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  26. Awesome! Love Alex's work as always:)

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  27. Really good tips.
    And I need to try this - work backwards and see where the character has come from...

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  28. I'd agree with this for most readers. Caring about the character is paramount, but that can only take you so far if the premise doesn't make sense or there are big plot holes. That can turn me off just as quickly. I'd say both character and plot are crucial to a successful book.

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  29. Nice tips. I think my process is a bit like Alex's: I get an idea for a story, but the characters drive the plot.

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  30. If a book doesn't have well-developed characters, I find it flat and not worth the time I spent reading it. I have read each of Alex's books and they are absolutely character driven and well-worth reading. Thanks for your discussion on character development, Alex: succinctly stated and well done!

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  31. Thanks again for the opportunity, Rachna!

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  32. Wonderful tips. Sometimes I read books that have the action and suspense, but the characters fall flat. We must always flesh them out.

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  33. Great to hear from Alex! Awesome advice about keep the characters in the forefront. It is so important for characters to come to life and for readers to care about them. :)
    ~Jess

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