Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Character Motivation!


Welcome back!


Following the game I posted earlier this month regarding motivations, I thought it would be a great idea to make an actual post which will go deeper into what consists of Character Motivation. This is something I have had a lot of practice (and fun) with while creating various Non-Player-Characters for the virtual studio Missing Worlds Media.


Motivation is the reason behind why people act the way they do. It can be a basic need or desire, which pushes the character to adopt a goal-oriented behavior, in order to fulfill or acquire aforementioned aspirations.


Stories are about people, and great stories require believable characters. Motivation helps make the characters plausible by giving them purpose, defining their needs, explaining their actions and making them seem three dimensional. In this sense, we can understand why motivation is an integral part of good storytelling; because it is linked to all the other elements of characterization. When creating motivations for main characters, you must ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is it significant? How important is this to the character and the audience, and how far would the character go to obtain it.
  • Is it credible? How believable is this to the character and the audience, and how much would the character really want/need to obtain it.
  • Is it instinctual? How intuitive is it to the character and the audience, and how would the character feel without it.


We must not forget, characters are also the tools the writer uses to make the plot move forward. Therefore we can see how a character’s personal motives will play a significant part on their role in the story; it explains the “why” and “how” said character will act or make decisions. For example, a character who is incredibly greedy, would not commit an act of generosity out of the kindness of his heart, or a character that is narcissistic would not suddenly commit an act of altruism for no apparent reason. In order for the audience to believe the story, the character's motives must be credible and align with the story’s goal or purpose.


Motivation is rooted in either a basic need or self-fulfilling desire; you do something because you need it, or because you want it. The actions of a character are dictated by their needs and desires. Say there is a cookie on the counter, will your character eat it? If he likes to eat cookies, then yes, because eating something sweet is a self-fulfilling desire. What if the cookie has nuts, then maybe your character will leave it there because he is allergic, therefore meeting his need for taking care of himself (he doesn’t want to be sick). Take this scenario even further; what if your character was allergic to nuts, but on the verge of starvation, he would then eat the cookie regardless, because now it is a question of self preservation.


Of course, normally priority would be given to needs, such as breathing or eating, over desires, such as wealth or influence. This is not set in stone however, giving writers the option to play around with their actors motives in order to surprise the audience. For a brief description and a better understanding of what motivates people, see the following graphic.





For further ideas on various motives and how they can influence your character, see the following list of examples:


  • Self-Preservation: the basic need of protecting oneself from harm or death.
  • Revenge: the spiteful desire of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.
  • Relationships: the social need of being connected with others, either by blood or by marriage, and participating in social interaction.
  • Greed: the selfish desire for something, especially wealth, belongings, or power.
  • Fear: the instinctual need to be afraid, mindful of one's surroundings, to want to avoid dangerous, painful, or threatening situations. Often linked to self-preservation.
  • Hate: the inner desire to express one’s intense or passionate dislike.
  • Responsibility: the strong desire to meet up to one’s accountability, to meet up to their surroundings expectations of them.
  • Prestige: the self-fulfilling desire to receive widespread respect and admiration for oneself.


Finally, an important point to remember is a character’s motivation is not static and can evolve over time. The actors motivation is a delicate equilibrium which is built, layer by layer, by the actions, conversations, considerations and discoveries they undergo during the course of a story.


I hope you enjoyed this post and found it was helpful to you in some way. Until next time.


Cheers!

Patrick Osborne

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Writing in Style!





Welcome Back!



        As I mentioned in one of my earlier post, I came across the mention of “Style and Tone” while researching more information for my first novel. In today's post, I will be discussing the purpose of “Style” and it’s various components.

Style is a simple way of saying complicated things. - Jean Cocteau



Style is the technique used by an author when presenting their thoughts, and depends on their choice of words, sounds, logic and structures. It is reflected in the writer’s words, the tone they use, the way they build a sentence or how they describe a visual reference.


Every writer has their own style, as it adds significance and impact to their work. A unique literary style is important, because how a writer expresses themselves can be seen as the voice readers listen to while reading the story.


There are four basic writing styles.


Expository Writing:
This style is subject-oriented, to-the-point and factual. The focus of this type of style is to provide background information, to explain the sequence of events or to tell the readers about a specific subject or topic. It is important to note, Expository Writing is objective. The author leaves out their own opinion about that topic.


Descriptive Writing:

This style focuses on describing various story elements in detail. Descriptive Writing is often poetic in nature, embellishing the topic rather than simply outlining it. This is usually accomplished by creating vivid images using sensory details, therefore allowing the reader to better experience the writer's world.


Persuasive Writing:
As opposed to Expository Writing, Persuasive Writing is heavily subjective. In this style, the writer gives reasons, explanations, examples, statistics and justifications. The authors goal is to persuade and convince the readers, have them believe in their point of view. In order to be effective, Persuasive Writing must appeal to the audience's sense of logic, reason, and emotion.


Narrative Writing:
This type of writing is normally used for fictional stories. Simply put, it is when a narrator retells the events or actions to the audience. Most common forms of Narrative Writing are short stories, novels, novellas, biographies and poetry.


There are various tools authors use to make their writing stand out. The following is a list of literary elements used to identify the type of style a writer is using.


  1. Vocabulary: The author may choose to use words either because they are simple or technical. They may use connotation (the associative or emotional meaning of a word) or denotation (the dictionary meaning of a word).
  2. Word Sound: The author may choose specific words because of their sound. This can be represented through Alliteration (repetition of initials) Consonance (the close repetition of consonant sounds), Assonance (repetition of similar vowel sounds), Dissonance ( the deliberate avoidance of patterns or repeated vowel sounds), Onomatopoeia (when a word sounds like what it represents) or Rhythm (flow or cadence).
  3. Expansive / Economical Diction: The author may decide to write in a tight and efficient manner, using as little words as possible, or choose to elaborate and give long-winded descriptions.
  4. Experimentation in Language: The author purposefully goes against the laws of literature. This can be achieved by unusual layout on the page, breaking rules of grammar and form, odd or unstable narrative perspectives, and so on.
  5. Sentence Structure: The author pays close attention to the form of there sentences. Short sentences best convey suspense, tension, and swift action, whereas Longer sentences work better for slower scenes, when explanations and descriptions are needed.
  6. Paragraph / Chapter Structure: The author pays controls the length of his paragraphs and chapters. Like sentences, the longer they are, the slower the action is. The length of a paragraph or chapter is usually is an indication of importance, as it shows that more information needed to be given to the audience.
  7. Pace: The author controls the speed at which the story flows. Keeping a steady pace requires the information given to the reader remain constant. If the writer wants to add atmosphere or tension, the writing will become heavily descriptive. If the writer wants the focus to be on face paced action, they will give less details to the audience.
  8. Time Sequencing / Chronology: This is how the author organizes the chronological order of events. Does the work’s structural “rhythm” flow continuously from beginning to end, or does the timeline jump, either with flashbacks, flashforwards, skipping large periods, and so on.
  9. Character Development: Style is also apparent in how the author introduces his characters. This can be seen in a variety of ways: through their visual appearance, descriptions of their behavior, what role they play or how they interact.
  10. Point of View: As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the Point of View dictates how the audience perceives the story. Therefore the author’s choice of PoV has a heavy impact on their style. Possibilities: first, second, third, omniscient, limited omniscient, multiple, inanimate, free indirect discourse.
  11. Use of Dialogue: Dialogue is words spoken in between characters. it affects the style in many way, as it can be used to control pace, express tone, reveal information on character development and so on.
  12. Figures of Speech: The author may use various figures of speech in their narration. Common tools are Metaphor (transferal of an idea associated with one word to another word), Simile ( comparisons using “like” and “as” and occasionally “than”), Symbol (word that operates on two levels of meaning, the literal and the figurative or suggestive), Personification (gives human qualities to inanimate objects, nonhuman organisms, or abstractions), Hyperbole (exaggeration) or Understatement (opposite of hyperbole).
  13. Tone: As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the tone reflects the mood of the story, therefore affecting the audiences perception. Tone represents the author's attitude towards a specific subject.
  14. Allusions: The author refers to something in our common understanding, our past or our literature. This can be anything from historical references to famous legends or popular books.
  15. Metafictional Techniques: The author specifically points out his own narration in the story, pointing out their use of various literary elements.



When beginning my research on “style in literature”, I had no idea of how many elements and components came into play. I hope this information will prove useful to some of you. This is definitely something which will require further practice on my part, as I feel my current “style” is pretty basic (or even non-existent).



Until next time,


Cheers!

Patrick Osborne



(edited on 2016-04-13)



Friday, April 10, 2015

Current Projects Part 3


Welcome back!


         I’ve decided to make my “Current Projects” posts a standard monthly update on my blog. I’m hoping this will not only interest my readers in seeing my progress, but will encourage me to keep a steady pace as well.


So what have I been up to lately?


         Currently, I am still taking the online “How to Write a Great Novel” course from screenplayscripts.com. I am about halfway through the lessons and exams, enjoying each one of them. They have proven to contain invaluable information, teaching me a lot on various points of storytelling that I had honestly not even considered before. The course is still available to me for about another month, so I will be concentrating on finishing it before my access to it expires.


In the past few weeks, I started work on my own novel by filling out my checklist. It has proven to be a slow process, but this is mostly because I am still learning and researching some aspects of storytelling. More details seem to be adding themselves to the list as I go, which is good, because the more content I add, the more ideas I get. The concept in my head is progressing slowly, but the story is becoming clearer as I fill out more items on my list.


As for progress on the actual story, I managed to nail down the names of three of the main characters in the last few days. Originally, I used various online name generators to come up with identities for my characters. This is fine for some occasions, however in this case I wanted special, meaningful names, that would help reflect my stories theme. Another problem I encountered was coming up with names that would not clash with each other. For example, at one point I realized there was several characters with similar names (Carl, Carter, Caroline), so some of them needed to be changed. It proved to be a challenge, but with some research (and helpful feedback from my wife), I managed to find monikers that fit my purposes nicely.


A few weeks ago, after reading a writing exercise online, I began experimenting with “hook” phrases. They say the first line of your story needs to be good enough to draw in the reader, making them want to read on. While experimenting with this concept, I succeeded in creating the first paragraph for my story (Yay!). I know, it’s a small step, but it is still a step, and one I find myself strangely proud of.


         As for my work with Missing Worlds Media, I have been working on the same project for over a month now. It has hit a snag during the approval process, having certain issues regarding content. I basically had to scrap it and start over from scratch. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, as I am sure it will be better the second time around.


         That is all I have to report for now. Feel free to ask questions, and I will answer what I can (avoiding obvious spoilers of course).


Until next time.


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne


(edited on 2016-01-07)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

BOOT CAMP LESSON 1: Motivation

Welcome to BOOTCAMP!


As I mentioned in my original post, I have been writing content for Missing Worlds Media, a volunteer based company, for the past three or so years. While working with the Composition Department, I was asked to come up with some writing games for future writers as well as for our fan base. These exercises are what originally gave me the idea to create this blog.


So it is with great joy that I get to share these games with you now!


Lesson 1: Character Motivation


Today’s game is about being creative with a character's motivation.


In my previous post, “Getting to know the players”, I already discussed the various types and purposes characters may have in stories. An important thing that a writer needs to remember, is why the character wants to be there. Every character in a story should have a motivation, something that drives them forward, makes them want to risk it all, that gives them a reason to want to face the Conflict in the story. Simply put; motivation is what makes a character do what they do.


The goal of this exercise to practice writing a backstory for a character. To make things more challenging, you will be creating a backstory and motivation for characters that you did not come up with.


Rules:
  1. Below are 5 candidates, with only a name and a job assigned to them. Select ONE of the 5 photos to work with.
  2. Write three different backgrounds for the candidate you selected: Who is this person if they were a Superhero. Who is this person if they were a Super Villain. Who is this person if they were a Civilian.
  3. All 3 backgrounds must have a limit of 30 phrases each!
  4. Within each background, you must include WHO the character is, WHERE they are from, WHAT do they do, HOW do they do it, and most importantly WHY do they do it.


Candidates:


  1. Name: Saruwatari Profession: Male Model.
  2. Name: Tessa Profession: Child care.
  3. Name: Olaf Profession: Business man.
  4. Name: Melina Profession: Musician.
  5. Name: Marco Profession: Plumber.


When posting your separate bios, please do so as such:
  1. Who is this person as a Hero:
  2. Who is this person as a Villain.:
  3. Who is this person as a Civilian.:


         For those who aren’t afraid to share their entries, feel free to submit your backstories as a reply to this post. Remember, this is a game, so no posting bad comments about other peoples entries.


Hope you have fun giving this exercise a try. Until next time!


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The proper Tone can speak volumes!


Welcome back!





         While working on the list for my current project, I came across additional items that were not included in my original post, "Making a list and checking it twice". I felt these new elements were important enough to be added to my template, so I am creating posts for each of them. These elements are ; Tone and Style. In today’s post I will be discussing the use of Tone and how it affects the overall feel of a story.


The proper Tone can speak volumes!


         Every story has a central theme or subject matter, the Tone constitutes the attitude that the author adopts to highlight said theme/subject. In the absence of vocal emphasis, a writer will usually convey Tone through their choice of words, which can come across as serious, humorous, sarcastic, passionate, indifferent, and so on.


         The purpose of Tone is to influence the reader’s understanding of the story, how they should feel while they are reading it, in order to better grasp the author’s message or opinion. The Tone therefore helps add atmosphere and life to a piece of literature, by shedding light on character personalities and depth to the setting, thus creating mood.


         Furthermore, Tone does not need to be static and can change throughout a story; reflecting the narrator's perspective, following the pace of the action or in order to better fit the story’s mood. It should be noted, that changing Tone should either be done gradually, or when starting a new scene or chapter. Changing Tones too often may also confuse the audience, so it is important to remain consistent.


         Authors will set the Tone through the various literary elements at their disposal. The most common of which are:


  • Diction: Expressing Tone by paying close attention to their choice of words.
  • Syntax; Creating effect with the grammatical arrangement of words.
  • Imagery; Describing the scenery in a certain manner, with cues that appeal to any of the senses;
  • Details; Informing the reader of important facts, either included or omitted.


In an attempt to better explain Tone, I have put together an example. All of the following instances illustrate the same situation, only using different wording.


Example #1:


John was walking down the street, making his way through the crowd.


Our first example is pretty basic. It gives you very simple information; who the character is (John), what he is doing (walking) and where he is (on a crowded street). Even though the phrase is pretty straightforward, you do get a feeling from this statement. The character seems to be in no hurry, nor is there a sense of danger. So in this case, the lack of information is what is setting the Tone.


Example #2:


John was strolling down the street, casually passing the other people in the crowd.”


See how the ambiance has already changed? By changing “walking” with “strolling”, you already get the sense the character is relaxed and is in a calm situation. This feeling of serenity is further accentuated by replacing “making his way through” with “casually passing”. Furthermore, by adding the section “the other people” , we make the phrase longer, thus making the scene feel slower. Allowing the character to view what is around him also gives the feeling he is enjoying his surroundings.


Example #3:


Johnathan was stomping down the street, angrily shoving his way through the crowd.


Doesn’t sound like you would want to cross this guy, now does it? Again, I changed “walking”, this time replacing it with “stomping”. I also changed “making his way through” with “angrily shoving his way through”. These two modifications help make the character sound incredibly irritated. Additionally, changing the characters name from “John” to Jonathan” makes him sound more serious.


Example #4:


Jay was running frantically down the street. Zigzagging his way through the mob.


This example sounds like a snippet from an action movie. By replacing “walking” with “running frantically ”, we give the reader the sense that the character is desperate or in fear for his life. This feeling of urgency is further accentuated by changing “making his way through” with “Zigzagging his way through”. The word “crowd” was replaced with “mob”, which gives the setting a more chaotic feel. And finally, did you notice how changing the characters name from “John” to Jay” makes him sound younger, or even less serious (along the lines of a street thug).


I discovered that Tone has a significant place in literature, as it allows writers to have better control over the mood of a story and gives readers a better understanding of what the author was trying to portray. I hope this lesson proved as useful to you, as it did to me!



Until next time.


Cheers!

Patrick Osborne.