Tag Archives: development

Authors Answer 150 – Creative Evolution

Writing is a skill that changes over time. The more an author writes, the better they become at their craft. Reading our first stories remind us how far we’ve come. And quite often we cringe and hide that story so no one can see it. This time, we’re talking about how we’ve changed over the course of our writing careers.

Question 150 – How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

H. Anthe Davis

I think I’ve most evolved in my editing skill — my ability to detect bad material and fix it. I’ve also loosened up a bit in my textual diction and am slowly figuring out how to not torture the English language, as I was critiqued once. I used to use more complex constructions and more high-falutin’ words in places where they weren’t necessary, or were in fact counter-productive to the flow and tone of the narrative. I’m trying to relax that, and clean up some of my descriptions and metaphysical concepts so it doesn’t take ten re-reads to figure them out. Clarity and precision are key.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Creatively? I think I can definitely say that over time I’ve expanded a great deal concerning the type of fiction I’ll write. Growing up, and as a young adult (not that I’m particularly old now), I would pretty much only write fantasy-type stories. Even concerning fanfiction, I stuck to things like Harry Potter and that novelization of Final Fantasy 3 that I never did finish (*cough cough*). As time went on, though, I began delving into genres I never really thought I’d be any good at – such as horror – and I loved it. These days, while I do definitely still focus on fantasy, horror, and supernatural themes, I’m a lot more open with what I’ll try. I haven’t shared much of it, but I’ve written lots of different genres now, from alternate history, to sci-fi, to erotica, and I think being able to do that really exercises the mind creatively, even if you know that you might never publish those pieces.

Jean Davis

When I first started writing seriously, it took me much longer, like years, to finish a first draft. Now that I’ve been at this for twelve years, I’ve managed to wrap up a full first draft in a matter of months. I’d like to think my voice is stronger, that I’ve got a better grasp of what works and what doesn’t, and that I now know when to abandon a project and when to slog my way through it.

Eric Wood

My writing has evolved slowly and quietly over the years. Where I once wrote straight forward without inferences, I now include hidden, deeper meanings. Where once all my characters were the same (basically, me) now are diverse and unique. Also, my stories have developed a complexity they didn’t have before.

Gregory S. Close

Over the years I’ve increasingly recognized the importance of craft in writing, rather than relying purely on talent. A natural talent for writing/story-telling is important, but it’s equally vital to have the tools to hone that talent. You can only be as talented as you, that’s a set value – but you can always improve your craft with hard work.

Cyrus Keith

If anything, I believe I’ve grown to be more careful in writing technique, using literary tools more easily. I pay attention to repetition, excessive speech tags, adverb usage, tension, characterization, and a host of other details that I always took for granted before. I think with every novel I complete, I become a better writer, more able to wield these tools with ease. I also think I’ve become more humble, through the many rejections that still come my way.

Paul B. Spence

I began as a sort protoplasmic ooze with single storylines but quickly became multi-linear. I suppose it might have been radiation, or that big black monolith thing in my back yard…

D. T. Nova

I’ve become more aware of my influences, and consequently become more likely to get a little meta.

I’d also like to think I’ve gotten better at writing things that work on multiple levels.

Jay Dee Archer

In the early days of my writing, I had fairly straightforward stories with a rather awkward way of narrating. I really don’t want to read what I wrote back then. My stories have added many layers. There are multiple storylines now. And I think I narrate far better. Word choice, avoiding repetition in speech tags, and a strong desire to avoid infodumps. But I also think that the eleven years that I spent teaching English have improved my grasp of the English language. I pay close attention to the grammar I’m using, though I think I may do that too much. I get hung up over a sentence, when I should just continue writing and worry about the structure later when I’m editing it. There’s always room for improvement!

How about you?

If you’re an author, how have you changed creatively over the years? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 138 – Developing Characters

Characters are central to a story. They need to be well-developed and believable to be considered good characters in a serious story. It’s important to make sure their behaviour is consistent. We’re going back to basics this month, talking about the development of stories. This week, it’s characters.

Question 138 – How do you develop the characters of your stories?

H. Anthe Davis

Jeez, I don’t know… I’m five books into a series, so at this point when I introduce a new character, I usually I have a vague idea of what I need from them (antagonist or ally? from which faction? which gender, which skills?), and then I spin details off of that base, trying not to duplicate traits from other characters. Then I write them into scenes with other established characters and figure out how they interact, and either expand upon them if it’s an interesting dynamic, or keep them sidelined/backgrounded if that’s all they’re good for. As for my main characters… Hell, I don’t know that either, since I first made some of them over twenty years ago. I guess it’s just basic traits + personal quirks + character interactions + developing history and psychology as I go along, until they start to feel like real people.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

To be honest, I base most of my characters on real people I know, and sometimes on TV/movie characters that I’ve watched for years and feel I know practically as well as a real person in my life. From there I base the progression of the characters on how I imagine their real-life counterpart would actually react to the situations I come up with for them. Obviously it’s all conjecture, as I couldn’t possibly know how anyone would actually react to something like zombies or being transported to an alternate universe, but it helps me develop my characters by picturing the events happening in real life and running with how my imagination views things playing out among the people involved.

Jean Davis

As a tried and true pantser, I start writing a male or female of whatever age is fitting to the story and figure out who they are along the way. I like to get to know them in context rather than on a character sheet beforehand. Though, I did try that once. It was too restrictive. I ended up picking a couple characteristics from the whole sheet and just running with that. He became a pretty cool and loyal supporting character.

Beth Aman

In my opinion, characters are composed of details. So I build characters by assembling details, sometimes from my imagination and sometimes from real people (generally strangers, not friends). Every human is a jigsaw of details – nervous habits, catch-phrases, dressing choices, speech patterns, favorite books, topics they talk about again and again, etc. My favorite characters are the ones that feel like real people because they have things that make them them. So that’s what I strive to do with my own characters.

C E Aylett

Research. Lots of it. I research where they come from, read blogs if I can find them of where they live or grew up to find local knowledge and build a picture from there. I also use character questionnaires to really dig deeper. There’s other tricks, too, but those are the main ones.

Paul B. Spence

My characters grow organically. Main characters get backstories written before I begin. Others get what I come up with on the fly. It is usually just a matter of asking who is right to see this story through, and going from there.

D. T. Nova

Not very deliberately. The original concept can be sparked from anywhere, and once a character exists in my head they have a life of their own. Characters created for one simple reason turn out to have depths I didn’t know, or adopt attributes that I had thought belong to someone else. I run scenarios through my head and pay attention to what never changes, and that includes situations I don’t have a reason to write.

Linda G. Hill

My characters often come to me. In my recent release, The Magician’s Curse, a ghost showed up at the door. I have no idea where she came from, but she told me who she was, and ended up being a favourite of some of my beta readers. It’s like that for just about every main or secondary character in my stories. Sometimes they’re inspired by an accent (Stewie’s, from Family Guy for example), sometimes a speech pattern (don’t got no example for that), and sometimes it’s a physical trait in someone I’ve seen in real life. In my current work-in-progress I have a character with a nose so sharp it could cut a cheesecake. I saw him at the mall and thought that immediately.

Cyrus Keith

I’ll be honest, I start with a vague, general sketch, and let the characters just kind of develop themselves as the story progresses. Sometimes, I’ll get a “whoa, that’s awesome!” kind of revelation halfway through, and then I have to go all the way back to the beginning of the story and edit those qualities in. That way, the story and the characters grow together. Besides, I’m way too lazy to generate complex character tables.

Gregory S. Close

I create a thorough backstory for all of my major characters, and try to get at least the basics in for supporting characters. Then, as the story unfolds, the characters reveal interesting bits about themselves that I incorporate into the narrative. Sometimes little of the original background remains, sometimes a lot. The important thing is to be true to the “voice” of the character – don’t try to force it.

Jay Dee Archer

I get pretty detailed about my characters before I even start writing. The main characters all get a biography. Not only do I write out their life history, I make note of their appearance, personality, major life milestones, age, birthplace, political stance, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses, and more. For dialogue, I want to make sure I have their mannerisms down. This needs to be consistent. They need to sound like they’re all different characters. That’s a major problem for some authors. They create characters that all sound the same. For minor characters, they’re developed as I write, mostly. But sometimes, for both major and minor characters, they take on a life of their own. They go a little different direction that I first intended, but this usually works out and makes them more realistic.

How about you?

If you’re an author, how do you develop your characters? Let us know in the comments section below.

English Language Development of My Japanese-Canadian Daughter

A brief update on how my daughter is doing with English. After a week in Canada, she’s still speaking mostly Japanese, but she’s been using more English. She speaks a lot of Japanese with other kids, and they just don’t understand her.

Her first time at the nearby playground, the kids mostly just ignored her. She couldn’t get them to listen to her because she kept speaking Japanese. But because of some time alone with my mom and sister, she’s been forced to use English, or at least try.

Today, we went to the playground again, and she actually managed to start playing with three other little girls her age. While she still used Japanese with them, she did attempt some English. They also didn’t mind her not speaking much English.

Although it’s not much yet, she does seem to be trying to use English. She’s said some surprising things, like “Speaking English daisuki (I love speaking English)” and “I can’t see it.” She’s finally figured out “me” and “you” and uses them correctly.

So, how long do you think it’ll be until she speaks English fluently? Remember that she understands English. Let me know in the comments below.

Bring on “Why?”

Language development is pretty interesting. Young children enter into a phase in which they always ask “What’s that?” My daughter’s been in that phase for a while, and often asks what something is. However, she just started a new phase this week.  “Why?”

Today, she’s been asking me “why” for every time I said “No.” The way she says it is funny. “Eh? Nande nande?” That’s Japanese for “Eh? Why why?” I explained to her every time she asked why. So far, she seems to be accepting the explanations.

Last week, she’d demand to eat something. It went something like this:

Her: Soda.

Me: No.

Her: Soda.

Me: No.

Her: Soda!

Me: No.

Her: Waaaaaahhhhh!

She cried every time she lost.  Today, it’s been like this:

Her: Soda.

Me: No.

Her: Eh? Why why?

Me: Because you just drank some juice. You don’t need to drink so much.

Her: Ehhhh? Wakatta (I understand).

Kind of surprising that she responds that way, but not always. Sometimes she still demands.

A couple other developments in language include a couple things. First, she’s been using full sentences more often in Japanese. Not in English, though. Secondly, she’s been using more English when I say what she said in Japanese, but in English, and she repeats the English word. That’s good. With us moving to Canada next year, she needs to be able to speak English. She understand what I say, she just uses whatever language she’s used to, and that’s Japanese.

My sister is coming to Japan in October. I hope she’ll use English then.

We Think She May Be Gifted

I’m rather hesitant to say this kind of thing, but going through several child care websites (official ones, not ones made by average people), I think we have to make the choice whether to get our daughter tested.

As she’s learning two languages at once, it’s difficult to determine if she’s great with language.  She speaks mostly Japanese, and she’s getting fairly conversational at 3 years and 2 months old.  I’m not sure if she’s learning at a normal rate, as she’s also learning English.  She knows a lot of words in English, and occasionally speaks English.  She understands what I say to her, but she always responds in Japanese.  Of course, this is quite normal, as it’s what she hears and uses more often than not.  It’s really only with me and sometimes with my wife that she’s using English.  But we shouldn’t worry about her English ability, as it’ll catch up quickly by 5 years old.

However, when we observe her drawing ability, we are amazed.  I’d checked what kids her age should be drawing.  She should be drawing faces with a circle and two dots for eyes.  Then there may be arms and legs growing out of the head like sticks.  That’s all.  The first face she drew when she was still 2 years old had circles for eyes with circles for pupils.  It also had a nose and a smiling mouth.

20141213-234631-85591097.jpg
My daughter’s first face when she was 2 years, 11 months old.

But since that time, it’s evolved into faces with winking eyes, eyelashes, hair, ears, full bodies, legs, and arms with hands that have fingers.  She’s quite detailed.  She’s drawn her favourite characters with surprising accuracy for a child her age.

20150323-233448-84888372.jpg
Drawn this week at 3 years, 2 months old. This is Disney’s Sofia the First.

I checked what age her drawing ability represents.  It seems like anyone who saw her drawings would think she’s 4 or 5 years old.

She is obsessed with drawing.  Our home is filled with large pieces of paper with her artwork. She goes through several sheets of paper every day.

It’s not just art she loves.  She also has an interest in dancing, singing, and music.  She has a big artistic side.  On top of that, she loves building things with Lego. When she makes something, she usually uses symmetry, and once made the starship Enterprise without knowing what it is.  She even tries yoga poses and has good balance.

As for writing, she can write her name in both English and Japanese.  But the unusual thing is that she writes each letter from the top right instead of the top left.  It’s kind of how a left-handed child might write a letter, but she uses her right hand.  Not sure what’s going on there.

So, we have some things to think about.  Do we get her tested?  Is she gifted or merely just ahead of her peers?

 

Bilingual Breakthroughs

My daughter is about to turn 3 years old next Sunday. She speaks both English and Japanese, but very basic at the moment. At this time of her language development, the changes are rapid. But the languages are uneven.

She can say many words in both languages, and while she understands English, she speaks mainly in Japanese. She can use past tense verbs in Japanese only. Only present tense in English.

Last night, there was a big breakthrough. I was putting her pajamas on, and she tried buttoning it up herself, but couldn’t. She said, “Dekinai.” That means can’t. I asked, “You can’t?” She answered, “I can’t.” That took me off guard. Not only did she understand and use can’t, but she also understood the difference between I and you.

She hasn’t used I in conversation until now. It’s always watashi or boku. Boku is for boys, though. She understand that now.

Language development is fascinating. She should be conversational later this year. I look forward to it.

And now, this is a train:

20150118-092911-34151859.jpg

She gave this to me and said, “Happy birthday!”

20150118-092948-34188823.jpg

Bilingual Development is a Challenge

My daughter is a lucky girl.  She has a Japanese mother and a Canadian father who speak different languages.  My wife speaks Japanese, while I speak English.  Sure, my wife speaks English, but not fluently.  I speak Japanese, but it’s really just survival Japanese.  But what will my daughter speak?

Since we live in Japan, she hears Japanese all the time.  She goes to a nursery where it’s all Japanese.  The only time she hears English is when I speak to her and when she watches Disney Junior on TV.  My wife does speak English to her, but usually uses Japanese.

So far, at 2 years and 4 months old, my daughter can say words in both languages.  However, she doesn’t seem to be able to string together words to form a coherent sentence yet.  Between 25 and 30 months, children are supposed to be able to say 2 to 4 word sentences, including verbs and nouns.  She doesn’t do much of that yet.  She’ll make single word requests, though.  For example, if she wants yogurt, she’ll say, “dodurt?”  If she wants to sleep in her bed, she’ll say, “bed?”  If she wants to watch TV, she says, “bee?”  She can say phrases such as “sit down” and “no no no no no.”  She mixes English and Japanese.  If she wants to be picked up, she asks in Japanese.  If she wants to eat something, she asks in Japanese.  She can count from 1 to 10 in English.  She knows the names of many fruits and vegetables, as well as animals.  She knows car, bus, and hikouki (airplane in Japanese).  She seems far more able to say phrases in Japanese than English, though.

Understanding is a different matter.  I can ask her to do something and she’ll do it.  Here’s a sample of what she knows.

  • Can you give this to Mommy?
  • Let’s change your diaper.
  • Did you pee?
  • Let’s go to the bathroom.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Stand up.
  • Turn around.
  • Put it in the garbage.
  • Do you want (insert food of choice)?
  • Where’s (insert any word she understands)?
  • Be careful.
  • Slow down.
  • Leave it alone.
  • Don’t touch.

And so on.

She watches Disney Junior and she listens and tries to repeat a lot.  Earlier today, she had a Lego Dale and Lego Minnie Mouse and was pretending that they were doing something.  I have no idea, but she created a whole dialogue between them that consisted of a mix of English, Japanese, and gibberish.  She likes to sing, and she’s often trying to sing the songs she hears on her favourite TV shows.  She hums a lot.  When she hurts, she says “ow” or “ouch” or “itai (Japanese for ouch).”  When she’s hungry, she says, “gohan (Japanese for rice or food).”  She knows her name, but doesn’t use pronouns yet.

If you were to judge her language abilities in only one language, she would seem delayed.  But when you look at both languages, she’s doing pretty damned well.  Studies have shown that children who are raised bilingually appear to have delayed language skills until 3 or 4 years old, but by the time they’re 5, they speak fluently in both languages.  The apparent delay in language often dissuades parents from using both languages at home and focus only on one language.  I think this is a mistake.  Use both languages.  Keep using them and don’t give up.  Once the child starts school, he or she should be great in both languages.  Also, people who are bilingual tend to be able to learn new languages much more quickly than others.  Later in life, knowing multiple languages is a benefit for mental health, especially in warding off Alzheimer’s.

So, if you want your child to have many advantages growing up, don’t give up on bilingualism.  I definitely won’t.

I wrote this post as my opinion for the HarsH ReaLiTy Challenge.