Concrete Detail

Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!

Moods-of-Red We are going to spend time looking at the moods of color.  Why? Color can be a great way to weave in motif, emotion and best of all mood.  There is a lot of information on the psychology of color, especially as it pertains to branding.

In my former life, I was very lucky to spend most my days emerged in color.  I taught classes about color and how to use it.  When I read a post recently Writing by Design: Using Color Theory by Gabriela Pereira over at WritersHelpingWriters.net on color theory I realized my knowledge of color may be useful to others.  I decided to do a series for my blog on understanding colors for writers.  rainbow

We are starting off with the R in ROYGBV, (pronounced Roy-Gee-Biv), which simply is an acronym for the colors in rainbow order.  Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet.   Red has the longest wavelength and is not actually the most visible color.

The properties of red appear closer than others and therefore grabs attention.  Scientists have determined that the physical response to the color may increase pulse rate, it may trigger the fight or flight instinct and even give the impression that time is passing quickly.  It also evokes sexual desires when used in the right situation.

Seen often as a symbol of love, it can also carry a murderous rage.  The color red is dynamic in its use for the writer in a setting or carrying the motif.  It can be manipulated from one believing they are in love yet can also display fits of anger or aggression.

Other meaning associated with the color red may be used to stir a reader’s emotion to passion, sexuality, romance, strength, action, stress, determination, leadership, courage, heat, desire, lust, malice and wrath.

Using Red as a writer:

  • Use red when your character needs to seek attention or energy, or there is a sense of danger or passion.
  • When setting a scene, for example,  a murder victim found with red ties around her wrist, the blood on the scene all show rage.
  • Using red as a more romantic setting one could describe the satin red nighty a woman may be wearing to seduce a man.
  • Showing agitation and anger can be used with descriptions including different kinds of red.  The color can be used to trigger an antagonist or another character.

Dress your character in red when:

  • motivated
  • needing to be grounded
  • strong
  • passionate
  • means of sexual attraction
  • power play situations

Culture

It is important to remember that red means different things in different cultures.  For example in China red is a symbol of good luck.  Use this in a story, perhaps a gift from someone and it is mistaken as aggression.  – great way to lead a cop on the wrong path in an investigation.  In the United States, the color red is part of the flag and blended may bring feelings of patriotism or freedom to a reader.  South Africa mourns with the color red.  Be sure to research the use of colors too when using them as symbolism.

Naming a character a color (Ruby, Brick, Scarlette, etc.)

can give a personality trait to a character.  Most readers have an inkling of a potential personality when given names that are colors, based on the simple psychology of the color.  *see below for emotions of the color red.

Other names of red:

scarlet, crimson, vermillion, carmine, maroon, candy apple, burgundy, ruby, rose, rouge, brick, blood red, blush, fire engine red, cinnabar, russet, rust, flame, Indian red, tomato, cherry, amaranth, barn red, Auburn, wine, Tuscan

Emotions of the color red may include:

Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, excitement, love, passion, vigor, drive. adventure, desire, action, tenacity
Negative: Defiance, aggression, danger, strain

 

For the fantasy writer out there, gemstones that are red can be used for symbols of protection, a boost of energy, create a sense of security, warding off fear, as well as good luck and signs of wealth.

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EIO---#3Okay, it’s Friday and we’ve made it through another week.  I think we deserve a treat.

I figure a sweet treat is a good way to go.  While we are at it we can use this time to exercise our observation skills.  Observing outside of the obvious is the most important way to sharpen the skills we need as writers to explore and expose our readers to the little things they may miss.  Grab your favorite candy (go for sweet for this exercise) and describe the texture.  I want you to avoid the obvious flavor reasons to enjoy the candy.  You can add some flavor words, but try and focus on the texture.  You may just discover the reason you like that candy has more to do with the texture than the taste.

EXAMPLE:

My mouth waters in anticipation.  Endorphins rushing, comfort, dare I say a moment of bliss.  The protective edible shell gives way to the soft creamy goodness in the center.  Nothing sticky just airy fluffy goodness.  My tongue relishes in the consistency, pushing the bite to the roof of my mouth, pressing it preparing for the descent.  I nibble again.  A fleeting moment, I  fight the pangs of guilt, calculate the number of minutes I need to spend in the gym to void out this pleasure. The silver wrapper crinkles as I pull it down to gain access to the next morsel.  I sigh, close my eyes sinking teeth deeply, breaking away the next section.  Slowly, I move the piece over my tongue to absorb the texture, I feel the chocolate melt away in the heat of my mouth blending with the whipped nougat.  Too quickly I am left holding only empty evidence of my stolen moment.

My candy:  Three Musketeer’s Bar.  🙂

EIO-#2


Simple everyday things.  Water.  Most people see it every single day.  Today I would like you to take a moment and observe water in an active state.  You can run water out of a tap, you can sit in front of a fountain and watch it move, a river, a stream, any place it is actively moving.  Then take a moment and describe the movement. Don’t be afraid to let it take you to a more thoughtful place.  Don’t resist your exercise, let it stretch beyond a simple description.

EXAMPLE:

It is liquid, moldable to my will.  I place my hand beneath the warmth of the stream pouring out. I spread out my fingers, and it bends to my command.  Now four separate channels tumble fluidly.  I can bring them together with a thought, then rip them apart.  It follows a path that easily manipulated.  Each molcule rushing forward behind another.  They cling together to create a transparent, gift of life. Without it, our kind would expire. It is more valuable than any precious metal.  Yet, because it’s abundance it is regarded only in times of its absence.  It passes smoothly over my skin, bringing comfort and relief.  The current continues relentlessly.  It holds energy clean and powerful. The fall meets resistance and scatters.  Regrouping it settles to a new path, always seeking a new destination.

EIO-#1


This world is filled with amazing, stunning beautifully created things.  It also is filled with often unseen mundane things that in themselves hold beauty and interest, yet so often go unnoticed.  I am going to challenge you my reader with exercises in observation.

Exercises in observation are not writing prompts, they are opportunities to hone your observation skills through writing. Learning to observe is important because living a full and productive life requires you are aware of the things happening and not happening around you.  Let’s jump in with our first Exercise in Observation.

May I suggest you get a new fun notebook and take time to observe the world around you, take in each exercise and record it.  Learn from it, if you are a writer these exercises will help you when you are writing because you have taken time to record situations and things you see.  As we develop a keen eye for the world around us we will learn to better appreciate and better experience it.

EXAMPLE:

May 29, 2018 – (Waiting room at XXXXXXX)

He is fighting sixty, still proud of his strong muscular frame. He sits absorbed by the device in his hand.  The thin-framed glasses match is greying hair. His regret over the loss of his hair shows in the style. His skin sun-kissed, the tan is earned from hours out on the course or perhaps a tennis court.  No wedding ring,  his confidence evident in stature yet when he makes eye contact I see a loneliness behind the lenses. White well-worn tennis shoes, comfortable but crisp blue shorts his back straight he scans the room.  A screaming yellow shirt with “MICHIGAN” emblazon in an arch across his chest reveals he is an athlete, born to it.  He is proud of his Alma mater. The purple phone case seems an odd choice, perhaps a gift from his daughter may be a young lover. It doesn’t fit, it is what caught my eye.  He greets the woman he previously spoke with as she returns to the tiny space we occupy waiting for the next phase of our testing.  His ease makes me think they know one another, then he asks about her family disproving my hypothesis.  The nurse announces he ready for the final phase of his test and when he stands to leave he again makes eye contact and offers a smile.  I am sure he is a pleasant enough fellow.  

 

downloadWhat’s in a name?  Character.  When choosing a character’s name it shouldn’t be an arbitrary decision.  Think back before 1997.  If I named my protagonist Harry, it may have many people picturing a handsome man that is gruff maybe a cop, why?  Think Dirty Harry.  Fast forward to today.  The name Harry has a much different feel to it.  It is associated with a character in a beloved series of magical book.

Now, you may be writing the next great “Harry”  but be careful.  Naming our characters can also be cliche.  If you write about a magical boy and name him Harry, you readers are going to expect something that you can’t deliver.  You can’t deliver Harry Potter because you are not JK Rowling!  You can use any name you wish, but be careful when choosing names that may build an expectation or worse, leave your readers with the impression that you are trying to ride the coattails of another author.

Names also can be very helpful in they sometimes conjure images.  When I say Bertha, what do you picture?  (If you know a Bertha, probably her.  If you don’t it is likely that you choose an image of a heavy-set woman.)

Again we must be careful about conjuring images.  If you choose a common name that is associated with bullies you may have a tough road ahead if he is a gentle, soft-spoken man. That’s not saying you can’t do it. In fact, it may be fun to try and buck the stereotype, just know you are going to have to work harder on convincing your reader of your character’s genuine nature.

When you’re naming your babies, take time to investigate the meaning of those names.  Use and manipulate any common ideas or misconceptions of people with that name.

Let’s return to our name Bertha.  Imagine if you were writing a scene where you were setting up a friend then you mention her name is Bertha, and immediately your friend’s face falls and becomes weary.  Even after reassuring him she is pretty he still doubts it.  When he goes into the bar and sees the most beautiful woman and of course she is trim, he knows he is there to meet your friend but this woman, she is so striking.  He decides to ditch your friend and try and meet her.  Guess who she is?  Now, what fun you can have with that.

The names we choose can be very helpful especially when naming supporting characters. This is when using commonly associated traits can quickly establish a character.  Additionally, if you are writing a character that is from another country, be sure to do your research.  You may love the name but if you don’t know that name is tainted with characteristics opposite of what you are looking for may hinder your reader.

Think of your character’s names as you may when choosing a name for a living human being.  If you have children you know that responsibility is pretty big.  There is a reason there are thousands of books on naming a baby.  Understand the importance of the name, but also have fun with them.  Sometimes cliche is okay, sometimes it’s a stumbling block.

Write on!

Erika

 

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Today is a day of memory not debate.

Put aside your left and right and remember.

Agree to disagree as we support those that gave all they could for your right to do just that.

Today is a day of memory not debate

The faces of the men and women that fought for something bigger.

The ones that died for the ideal of freedom.

Today is a day of memory not debate.

Take a moment, if even just brief to set aside your politics and remember them.

Remove your need to exercise your right to free speech and remember.

Today is a day of memory not debate.

 

 

details


We’ve been discussing character development and the truth is the more detail you have for your characters, the more your characters will feel real to you and your readers.  That’s important, but now it’s time to talk about how to write these deeply dimensional characters.

As the writer, you ‘ve taken time to picture and record all those details now it’s time to put them to use.  The most important thing to do now…is to ease off.  While it is important to me, the writer to know all the little nuances of the character, if we share all that information with our readers they will be BORED!  You will use the information you have gathered to better understand your character.  To know how to take them out of the comfort zone.  A description is a delicate thing.  Try revealing things about characters in action here is an example:

“She reached over the antique desk and accepted the file from his pudgy fingers.”

“He watched the gaze of her sage eyes travel over the long lines of his new tailored suit.  The pull on the side of his mouth was strong.  Her eyes nearly level with his she extended her hand.”

“She lifted her arms to the side, smiled at the loose blouse, it was a long battle but she finally made it.”

How these small details work:

Your reader will see your character but they also learn that the person she is receiving the file from is overweight.

At some point, you will need to use colors to describe things but you can weave them into your story and avoid the list descriptions.  Believe it or not, stating “the long lines,” tells me the character is tall.  We also learn that the woman is most likely rather tall too, her eyes are nearly level with his. Do we need to know your character is 6’4″  no, not all the time.  You can leave it at tall then allow the reader to fill in those gaps.

Finally, your readers understand that the woman in this sentence has lost weight, most likely a lot of weight why because she met her goal.   The image your reader will have may be of themselves at a goal weight.  You did both of these without a list.

It is important to allow a reader to create images (use their imagination) in their mind’s eye because they are investing in your writing.  Interestingly, if you give too much detail, your characters may be difficult for all readers to see.   At some point, details can constrict imagination and the reader then can’t identify with the character because there is too much to remember.

In the case of details of a character, let them develop in the story. You do need to make sure your readers have enough detail to get the picture of the character.  For instance, don’t tell your reader “I look like my mother.”  Then never tell them what his/her mother looks like.  A great way to use that would be to have the character look at a photograph, describe an aspect of his mother/father and say he has that characteristic.

I hope you have enjoyed our look into character development. If you have any tips or tricks for developing characters, put it in a comment.  I would love to add your expertise to my notebooks!

Erika

Lets get physicalThat title got you doing one of two things, raising your eyebrows with a sly smile on your face or humming a tune by Olivia Newton-John.  Maybe both!

When building characters we must at some point come up with an image of how they look.  In fact, it isn’t unheard of for writers to chose the actor they want to play the role.  Then use this image to help build the physical image of a character.   This happens to me later after I have taken some time to really examine the way my characters look.  I am not talking about the list,  you know, my protagonist is an athletic male, 27, six-foot-four-inches, thick brows edge emerald green eyes,  his face is often scruffed with a sexy beginning of a beard, deep black hair with rippling muscles of a Navy Seal.  His teeth are meant for toothpaste commercials but that sly crooked smile is what hooks a girl…

Okay, wait, what was I talking about?   You know what I am talking about. The list, the things we fill in at the beginning of a character profile sheet.  While important, and that is a physical description that most writers get through then stop.  However, let me ask you this when you are writing your characters do you take time to see him or her in your mind’s eye?  Do you study the way he/she stands? Kneel? Where do they put their hands?  How they carry themselves, do you think of how they sit?  Does he sprawl across the space he is in, in an act of dominance or perhaps because he has no choice?  Does he lace his fingers together and bring them to his lips when he is thinking about something, someone?  What movements can you pin to your character that will help tell their story?

May I suggest, when you are creating your characters, from the beginning, study them.  Write in the character’s file how he stands when he is interested in a woman, does he lean back or into a potential love interest?  When confronted with danger does he crouch down, reach for his weapon, throw himself into the danger?  How?  When he reaches for his weapon where are his eyes?  Try and describe the physical responses he has to these kinds of stimuli to the smell of good food, the smiles he does to charm someone then how does his body look when trying to charm someone, will he lean in, or lift his hands where are his hands?  Do his feet shuffle, does he lean against the wall and place his boot on the wall?   Does he cross his leg and rest it on his knee?  Looking at your character in this way can also help you to discover his personality.  Is he closed off?  How do you know?  Because he often has his arms crossed in front of him? Is it the way he tilts his head back often?

The idea in this exercise is that I am able to get a better picture of how to write my characters movements, my current protagonist often rubs her shoulder when stressed.  It is something her love interest will pick up on and eventually it will be something she becomes aware of when only he is around.  This can believe it or not build tension.

You need these movements to help establish your characters.  They will help your reader see in their mind’s eye what you do.  How do you find these tick, mannerisms and movements?  I can tell you what I do.  I go out, in public and observe people then I write down things.  Here is an example: He touched his lip pushing back his smile as he watched her cross the room. (I see this man as shy.)  If I have a character that is shy, I may add this to his “movement’s list” in his character file.  If I have trouble describing something that is happening I usually go to this list to try and find how he may react to a situation.

I hope this helps you in your quest for character development!  Get out there and find some movements you can use for your favorite character.

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When I begin a story, I have to start with a character.  Then something happens to my character.  What happens next is very important.  HOW will my character reacts to the situation I have placed him or her in.  Knowing how your characters react to situations is very important to a successful story.

I took a class in college several years ago, The Art of Storytelling.  Yes, that is a real class and probably one of the best classes I attended.  In this class, we learned how to best use our strengths when telling oral stories.  One of the things the professor introduced me to the way the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I was not surprised when I found out I was INTJ.  Well, not after I read what it meant to be an INTJ.

After taking the test I became very interested in the traits of each of the personality types.  I have learned to use the different types of personalities to predict ways my characters may react in some situations.  Or even more, how to make them act, unlike their natural personality bend.   Let’s face it if all your characters act like your personality it will be a boring book.  The hard part is better understanding how an ENFJ acts if you are not one.

Enter 16personalities.com.   While I was developing one of my supporting characters to my antagonist I needed to understand how this woman would allow the antagonist to essentially use her.  I turned to the information on this site to help me better grasp who she was.  It was very helpful in further developing the reactions she toward others when confronted about her involvement with the antagonist.

Take some time to dig into personality types.  When I create characters, one of the first things I do is a Myers-Brigg test on them.  I want to have diverse characters in my book.  Using personality types can help you as a writer develop a well-rounded character that will connect with your readers.  Sixteen personality types, that is a lot of material.   I have spent time on several personality sites but find that 16personalities stand out from the others.  They offer many opportunities on their site that can better your writing and yourself.  I also like that they have “named” the types like INTJ is called the Architect.  This allows a writer to take a quick glance and determine how they can see the character they are building.

You don’t have to stay in the types, but the truth is understanding how a personality type reacts normally helps to make your characters believable.

Check out www.16personalities.com

 

hobbiesGetting to know all about you.

Today is another of those writer peeks.  Well, partly.  Everyone is multi-pronged.  Writers have many things they do besides write.  For instance, I have started another blog to focus on the more artistic side of me– and by artistic, I mean the artsy crafty side of me. You can find it here.  Erika Hayes Artistic Detail

When I decided to start an art blog again I thought about how the characters we write need to have multiple sides. No one likes reading flat characters.    I have read a lot of books about how to write a character but I guess it was making this blog today that whacked me upside the head.   I am not only a writer, but an artist, a mom, a wife, a friend there are a lot of things that I do that if you only read this blog may never know about me.  I am an artist.  I spent over twenty years working in the paper arts industry.  You may not know that means, but it’s very cool. I know many people that read this blog read it because I mostly talk about writing and words. The thing is there is more to me than my adoration of the written word.

What does all this mean?  I learned something about character development today.  Take some time when you are writing a character, give them other interest.  It may be that your reader is exposed mostly to one thing about your character, and only see a peek of this alter ego.  However, when you are writing, giving your readers peeks into the other sides of the characters create a multi-dimensional character that is relatable.  I realized that if I take time to create a new blog (dimension) to my character, even if it only pops up once or twice in a book, it allows my readers to see that character as a real person.

Everyone has many different interests and one or two interest that really drive them.  Take advantage of that.  When you are working on your character, find out what their favorite candy bar and why.  Discover the hobby they enjoy is it cross-stitching? Do they take classes to better that interest?  Do they share that love with someone else or hide it.  Could it be he/she is nervous to let that part of themselves be exposed?

If you have a cop that is passionate about justice but also likes to hook-latch rugs it shows a softer side.  Maybe your supporting character likes to ice skate and that link can help them bust the case open.  It will help you, in the long run, to take some time and discover other aspects of the lives of your characters.

All from starting a blog on something I love doing in addition to writing.  *and yes I was a hardcore scrapbooker for a long time! but I mostly make cards now.  Add dimension to those protagonists and antagonist by taking time to discover more about them, create layers and you will be writing unforgettable characters.