Guest Blogger: Adrienne Garvin Dellwo

May 8, 2018 at 2:39 am (Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

I”m happy to host a fellow writer who delves into the realm of the superhero story.  She has a few things to share about character development:

Some characters come to life in just a few words while others remain as thin as the paper they’re printed on. What makes the difference?

You can analyze the writing and learn a lot about description, dialogue, etc., but a key element of creating great characters is something you don’t see on the page. It has to do with how well the author knows the character.

In my upcoming superhero novel, The Hero Academy, I had to create a lot of characters and find effective and efficient ways to communicate them to the reader. Going over notes from someone who read an early draft for me, I noticed she kept commenting on a particular character. She loved the way he talked, his mannerisms, his attitude. He wasn’t even one of the primary characters, just a classmate of the protagonist. I knew right away why he seemed so vivid to her—he’s based on my son. I’ve known that guy for 16 years.

That proves a point you hear authors make a lot: you have to know far more about what you’re writing than ends up in the book. Building a world? You may never talk about the economy, the history of a region, or the particular lilt of the local dialect, but if you don’t know those things yourself, the world will be less believable. The reader feels a writer’s lack of knowledge and enjoys the story less because of it.

No matter your approach to creating characters, before the manuscript is anywhere near ready for an audience, you’ve got to know who those people are. Some writers get in-depth with their main characters before they start writing, creating character profiles, building backstory, even creating inspiration boards. I don’t do any of that. It’s not wrong, it’s just not what works for me. I prefer to start out with a rough idea and then let the characters take shape as I write.

My method does lead to more work in the second draft, but it also gives me some flexibility. Some of my best characters start out incidental, such as Misty Michaels, an intern in The Hero Academy. I needed someone for the brilliant neuropsychologist to bounce ideas off of, and at the beginning, I believed the doctor was the important character.

Before long, though, I found Misty more interesting and realized she could play a significant role in the story’s climax. As important as she became, though, she’s still in relatively few scenes and I knew she was underdeveloped.

Then came a call for stories. A group I’m part of, the Pen & Cape Society, was putting out its fourth themed superhero anthology, The Good Fight 4: The Homefront. It didn’t take long for me to decide I wanted to write Misty’s backstory. I had a vague idea about some deep, dark secret in her past, and I wanted to know more about it and see how it played into who she became later on.

I wrote Misty’s story, “Impulses,” and it made it to publication before the book. Homefront, which explores the day-to-day life of superheroes, came out May 1. (It’s full of great stories—you want to read it!)

After “Impulses,” when I revisited Misty’s scenes in The Hero Academy, I found it easy to add all kinds of new depth to her character because I know her better. I know why she hid her powers. I know why she went into medicine. I know the struggles that shaped her. I even know why she always carries too much stuff, which leads to lots of jostling medical charts and spilling coffee. It’s not all in the book. It’s not all in “Impulses,” either, and it doesn’t need to be. I know her better, so the reader will understand and, I hope, relate to her better.

A full 90 percent of an iceberg is under water, and you don’t need to go scuba diving to appreciate the beauty of what you see above the surface. So when creating characters (or worlds, or whatever), remember that what you put on the page is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Much more is beneath the surface, and that’s the foundation. Without all that down there as support, nothing floats.

Many thanks to Adrienne for sharing her wisdom.  You can find out more about Adrienne and her books at her website.

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April Blitz 2016: A Triple Play (#5-7)

April 8, 2016 at 1:39 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , )

kilosThings happen.  When I’m doing one of my twice a year submission blitzes, sometimes I get distracted by other things and skip a day.  I had every intention of catching up the next day, but I fell asleep early and that brought an end to that idea.

Third day’s a charm, and despite jugger practice, I did manage to squeak in three submissions to get myself back on track – one superhero submission and two horror tales.

I’m also working on a short, inspired by the latest chicken mink attack.  My husband manage to eliminate both sneaky predators so far, but there’s a third skulking about.  The story is almost finished and then with a few tweaks, I’ll be able to add it to the blitz.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Masked Mosaic

March 26, 2013 at 9:47 pm (fantasy, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories from Tyche Books

I’m getting this review in a day late, thanks to the last two stories in this anthology. Wading in to an all superhero anthology, and an all Canadian one at that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cover is a beautiful montage tacked together to offer the shape of a maple leaf. The first thing I was pleased to see was that there was a fairly even split between male and female contributors. The intro was solid too, from someone who can be considered an expert with regards to Canadian superheroes. But truly, what blew me away about this anthology was the diversity and complexity of the stories. All were lush with historical and/or cultural references. Some were set in the past with unusual alternative histories, others took place in current times and there was even one with a futuristic tone. The tales had focuses on heroes, villains and those falling in between, formats ranging from comic book character descriptions to poetry, myth-style storytelling to modern literary narrative. You can find a little of everything in the anthology from the whimsically quirky to the dark and soulful, with protagonists varying from potheads to senior citizens. I feel it is a well-polished, well-explored compilation and here are a few of my favourites – keep in mind that it’s the darker fiction that appeals to me most:

The Creep – Michael S. Chong: Possibly the darkest story in the anthology and certainly the most chilling. While not wanting to spoil the tale, I will say that it hinges on a disconnect between perspective and reality. It had my mind spinning off into just how far the “hero” might go with his powers.

Circe and the Gunboat – Kevin Cockle: I loved the illusion of the relationship between the protector in this story and his ward. The implications of how a less tangible super power could change the world and the extremes people might go to to preserve the new world order were very thought-provoking.

Sea and Sky – Rhonda and Jonathan Parrish: A terrific myth-based tale with old world ambiance, it captured my heart with its charm.

Lonesome Charlie Johnstone’s Strange Boon – Jason Sharp: A tragic story demonstrating the corruptive powers of wealth and power that is both sad and frightening with moments of dark humour. I enjoyed its quirky flavour.

My only minor disappointment with the anthology is that my favourite story by far, and the only one that made me cry, was the opening tale to the anthology, Nocturne by E. L. Chen – an angst-ridden, sympathy-driven story about one downtrodden man craving significance in a fickle world. I’m the type who likes to save the best for last, so I would have preferred to see it placed towards the end of the anthology.

I applaud this excellent anthology with such a strong and obvious Canadian influences. It definitely rates amongst the top of my recent reads.

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Vicarious Dreaming

March 16, 2013 at 1:44 am (Fervor, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

I took my daughter to see The Rise of the Guardians today and found myself swept up in its totally unbelievable tale. Why? Because the holiday myths act like superheroes in the story and I adore superheroes.

I grew up wishing I could be a person who protects others. I would have loved to have joined the military, the police force or become a firefighter, but my back injury and reflex issues, thanks to a car accident when I was five, ruled those things out. I’m too squeamish at the sight of other people’s blood to be a savior of the medical kind. I settled on being a civil servant where I try to help people, but the rules I have to follow don’t always allow me to give them as much help as they need, unfortunately.

So my desire to be the guardian, to come to others’ rescue, has been relegated to dreams – and often times to delving into dreams manifested by other people. I have to experience the superhero life vicariously.

I have watched the majority of the superhero movies out there. I have played every superhero RPG I could get my hands on, starting with Villains and Vigilantes, moving on to DC Heroes and Marvel Superheroes and finishing up with GURPS Supers and Champions (the best one, in my opinion.) I have an eclectic collection of comic books with obscure supers like Flare and well-known favourites like Iron Man. I devoured the Wild Cards series with great gusto. I’ve even dressed up as She-Hulk before.

And now, thanks to the Masked Mosaic, I now have my own superhero story published.

The surprising thing is that despite my love for superheroes, I’ve only written two stories of that type – the one now published, “A Face in the Wind,” and a darker tale I submitted to a charity anthology (I’m still waiting to hear if it will be used.) I’ve had plenty of ideas, but none I could see making into a full novel and there aren’t that many venues out there looking for a superhero short story.

What sort of characters have I created in the past?

Well, there was Epoxy, a chemist who had created a super-suit and gadgets all fabricated from her own variant of super-glue; Cypress, a shape-shifting archer with divine powers; Finder, a super-detective whose skills proved to be the basis for the Finders in my Fervor series; Silver Bullet/Silver Jet, who had super-sonic flight and could shrink to bullet-size; Jackpot, a superhero with extraordinary luck, and many others. I love coming up with new concepts and themes.

Will I ever write a full superhero novel? Maybe, if I can come up with a solid story idea for something that length, one that is truly original. I don’t want to rehash something that has been done before.

Until then, I’ll stick to the odd super short story and enjoying the dreams of others.

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