Category Archives: Stories

What makes a character relatable?

This has been said over and over again, a thousand times, and without cessation. Flaws make a character relatable. Funny enough, for myself, it’s not a word in WordPress’ dictionary. However, I digress. (A fancy word for, but that’s not related to the topic, though I’m sure you know that.) What kind of flaws are we talking about though? Are there other ways to make someone relatable? The answers? Everything and yes.

Part of me wants to tackle the second question first, but we’re sticking to flaws. An example from one of my projects (being slowly reworked because I realized how terribly I started it) is that we have a hero. The magic of the world is built in an old language, called runes. Different runes do different things, and yadda yadda, the hero is considered a master. However, he admits to himself, that he really isn’t, and he cheated to get there. How many people cheat on exams? Lie? Everyone (Or so we tell ourselves… Maybe?). At the least you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t done one or the other. He’s also forced to take on an apprentice, and I say forced, because he’s rebelling against the system he’s a part of. We all try to be different and unique in our own ways (usually). The short of it is that he’s only around because he’s considered a master, and if people knew the truth, he’d be out and/or dead, and while he wants to redeem himself, he’s not in a position too, and so we have someone caught in a lie that’s out of control.

Other ways to relate are basically journal entries from characters, getting really into their heads and plainly spelling out on the page the way they think. It’s not the greatest method, but in certain quantities and forms, it’s a powerful way for us to understand the inner workings of tough characters.

The third, and I hate this way, is to have a character so plain, that they can be easily replaced with yourself (Bella from Twilight). While it does make a character relatable, it’s also a way to bring the story quality down.

Then there’s hypocrisies. These are a favorite, because when done well, they really shine through in a character. Say you have a misogynist (sorry ladies), who also follows a code of chivalry. Sure he doesn’t like women, but he will go out of his way to save and/or help them if he can. It can be something simple too, like they hate rice, unless it’s pork fried rice. Super religious and marries an atheist. Hates working out, but continues to go out of habit. These things make a character.

The final one I want to point out, isn’t just flaws, but fears. Fear of heights, spiders, crowds, closed spaces, clowns, etc. makes people relatable on some level. Someone out there can relate to your character at a primal, self preserving level, even if it’s due to xanthophobia (look it up).

I don’t want to conclude this, so I’m leaving it open to more examples and ways for the rest of you.


Sequels and Trilogy Syndrome

An important part of writing is knowing when to just stop. I wish I was kidding, but it’s unfortunately true. There’s nothing wrong with staying in your world. There’s nothing wrong with writing a sequel either. I happily encourage it, if it’s a world you love to write in, but don’t just write books because a publisher says so. When I say this I think of trilogy syndrome. Trilogies seem to be all the rage in the literary world, or just long series, however, the latter doesn’t have this problem.

Trilogy syndrome is when a book, usually the second, is dragged out with filler and fluff so as to force the story onto a third leg. Anyone who has read a few trilogies can tell when trilogy syndrome takes place, because much of the book in between will feel forced towards the later half. A story should be told in however many books it needs, and that is why I have a lot of respect for the two book sets (a duology?) that appear from time to time. There was nothing forced, they just wrote what needed to be written. Another method that I’m fond of is the L.E. Modesitt Jr. method (only because I can’t think of many authors who do this), which is to write books across history in your world, giving a character no more than two books of their own, and only one in a few cases.

Is trilogy syndrome avoidable? Well, yes. If it means writing two longer books, rather than weakening two of them, or even writing one longer book. What matters is that the story gets told the way it was meant to, not because trilogies are popular.

There isn’t a ton for me to say on the topic without dredging up examples that I don’t have time for, so, for just a moment, I want to look at my current work. It’s presently titled Earth Shaker. The character, Elyas, drags himself quite reluctantly to the battlefield to go after the woman he loves, one of the Iron City Knights, because he fought in the last war, and knows just how vicious the honorable Drae can be. Of course he’s been getting stronger over the years with the help and influence of the Earth Goddess Anset, and more so in the days to come. As such, she is preparing him for a task, to act as her Envoy and kill someone he knows. Of course his decision is something that can shake the world. (Edit: pun unintended)

However, my story is about Elyas throwing himself back onto the battlefield and growing in power for the sake of love, and learning just what he can do. It’s a set up to what will hopefully be the second and final book. I’m not stretching the story more than it has to, however, I recognize that for certain events to take place, time has to pass, and I won’t be able to resolve certain conflicts in what I’d like to end in a single book and still maintain the writing style it has up until now. I recognize the story though, and I can at least confidently say that I don’t want it to suffer trilogy syndrome, and won’t let it as long as it continues on the path I seem to have envisioned for it.


Miscellaneous Creation: The Stitch Men

I’m not really sure what twisted part of my mind came up with these creatures, but I thought I’d share them. I call them the Stitch Men.

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Stitch Men are made from the dismembered corpses of people. An angry spirit will try to seek revenge through these corpses, reattaching limbs by taking on the form of threads reattaching the body parts. Though their limbs hang loose, the threads act as new muscles and allow these undead creatures to move. Unfortunately, these threads do not allow them to speak or communicate in any way, and only allow to carry on the spirit’s ill will towards humanity.

The most fearsome of the Stitch Men is known as Plague. A truly vengeful spirit took hold of a former powerful warrior whose scattered body parts had been taken by rats and filled with plague. Spreading rot and disease where he goes, many have tried to take down this fearsome man, but none have succeeded. The myth behind Plague is that he only appears on the night of a New Moon in a place where his weakness, fire, can’t get to him without causing untold amounts of damage and destruction. From there, he walks the streets, letting disease spread. At false dawn, he takes the life of one victim, and then leaves without a trace that he’d been there.


Character Sketch #3

I’m on a roll! By that I mean, here’s my third character!

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LOCKE BLACKCOURT

Gender: Male
Age: 34

Locke is the idealistic head of the Blackcourt Clan. He has long, dark, curly hair and gray eyes.

Originally the youngest son of the Blackcourt family, he quickly rose to power as one by one his parents, brothers, and sister vanished. Though many people suspected him, no one could prove anything. Despite the splintering of the Blackwood clan from the Blackcourt clan, it still remained a powerful force. While Locke declared neutrality initially, his loyal servant, Alexander Graves picked up Will Shiremont, a forced servant of the Eslei clan, and thus he enters the storm of the civil war.

Hopes & Dreams: Peace and more power to the people.

Fears: having to give up on his ideals.

Hobbies/Habits: Spending time with the locals. Tends to be more forgiving than he should be. Worrying Alexander.

Loves: The Harvest season’s weather

Hates: His family, People who would take advantage of him

Other Features: There’s almost always dark circles under his eyes from a lack of sleep. A sword with a red blade.

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That leaves many more still.

  • Alexander Graves (m) – servant to Locke
  • Roric (m) – Knight of the Grand Edict
  • Will Shiremont (m) – Forced recruit of the Eslei clan
  • Mira Vale (f) – Married to Van Eslei in exchange for her family’s safety
  • Aya (f) – Strategist for Demon Eyes Arryn
  • Salibus (m) – Foreigner strategist who works for the Balorryn clan

As always, I’m open to suggestions for who to put up next.


Character Sketch #2

So, I figured that since my current project has so many characters, I’ll continue with my character sketches while I get a better sense of them

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SHIN (No Last Name)

Gender: Male
Age: 23

Shin is an ambitious genius serving the Blackwood Family as a strategist. He has shaggy black hair and brown eyes.

Originally he was the student of the master tactician Tristan Ivo, who took him under his wing from a young age. Reporting no family name, he is often considered clan-less, despite serving one. When his master vanished, Shin was to take over as the head strategist, but was denied the position due to age and experience. He would go on to win several battles with minimal losses and still not receive recognition. Presently being in charge of strategy in a smaller camp has left him taking on, and winning, riskier battles in order to get the recognition he feels he deserves.

Hopes & Dreams: Recognition for his talents

Fears: Being used and discarded

Hobbies/Habits: Rodan (Kind of like a chess game), losing Rodan pieces (he uses them in his strategy planning), Worrying Rin

Loves: Sweets, Showing up superiors

Hates: Disrespect, Incompetent leaders, People who don’t listen

Other Features: None in particular

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Shin was actually the first character to get a role in my story. While he isn’t as solidified as Rin in my mind, I feel he’s a lot of fun to write about. This story has 9 characters. I can’t promise that they will all survive either. Since that means I have 7 left, I’m probably going to keep running this series.

Commentators can pick from one of these ones for my next sketch if they’d like:

  • Locke Blackcourt (Head of the Blackcourt Clan)
  • Alexander Graves (Devoted servant to Locke Blackcourt/Earth Enactor)
  • Roric (Knight of the Grand Edict/Metal Enactor)

Keep Writing!

~ Underdog


Character Sketch #1

While thinking about what to post today, I decided maybe I should share some of my own creations for once. Though I suppose the big question is where to begin? As of late, I’ve been working on a world for a story. The story is being told from the perspectives of several characters in a structure more akin to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen books. While I’m not deep enough into the writing to share it yet, I do have the characters in mind, and decided to lay the details of one out for you to see.

Thus I present to you my first Character Sketch:

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RIN NOBLESSE

Gender: Female
Age: 21

Rin is an athletic tomboy serving the Blackwood Family as a bodyguard. She has short-cut, straight, reddish brown hair and blue eyes.

Initially, she joined the military to escape marriage, but ended up finding someone she cared for in her new job, a young strategist named Shin who saw her as someone with potential and talents, and not just a woman. Presently, she is assigned to guard him, and uses loyalty as a guise for her true feelings. While not always the brightest, Rin is a talented swordsman and at times an unlikely leader as she struggles to survive in the civil war torn era of her homeland.

Hopes & Dreams: An end to the Civil War, and capturing the heart of Shin

Fears: People she cares about getting hurt, Fire

Hobbies/Habits: Whistling, Knuckle Cracking

Loves: Shin, fried pork strips, watching Shin’s strategies play out perfectly

Hates: Snakes, Hector Blackwood

Other Features: Burn scars on her back from her childhood. Miscellaneous cuts, scars, and bruises.

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I’m always happy to work on these, and answer questions in the comments!


Sharpshooter

Now, there’s some background information I’d like you to know about this. It’s set in a world that I had been working on at the time. Whether or not it’s any good remains to be seen. I did kind of pull it together almost on top of the deadline for submissions. It was written as an experiment with time and tension, and though it never saw print, it was accepted for publication a couple of years ago.

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Edward Sun stood still. The sharp featured man looked down the street at the gathering locals of Rachette. A faint breeze didn’t stir his straight, short hair. It looked an even lighter brown in the mid-day sun. He took a deep breath and waited expectantly. A bell sounded noon’s arrival, and everything in the area went dead silent. Finally, a feminine voice called out, “Back’s to each other!” People stopped on the paved stone streets. A crowd was gathering. This wasn’t an irregular occurrence, but people always wanted to see who went down. “One!” He took a step forward. Erin always did this for people. It was like a second job for her, as she usually got paid for it by the winner. He’d done this so many times now, that the routine was perfectly ingrained into his body.

“Two.” He took another step forward. He pictured Erin once more in his head. The barmaid wasn’t the most beautiful woman, tired brown eyes in her twenties, with chocolate curls hanging down to her shoulders. She was a little on the husky side from lots of hard work, but there was a simple charm to her that he had always admired in his friend. There was no time to thank her any other way than a memory if this was the end.

“Three.” He stepped forward once more. His heart was beating faster.

“Four.” He flexed his hands around the six-shooters in his belt holsters, knowing he had to draw at a moment’s notice.

“Five.” His muscles were tensing. Adrenaline started to rise. He had to force calmness on himself. He’d done this so many times before.

“Six.” This was when he always contemplated his life. No regrets, as usual, not that there was any time for them. He’d lived his life on the skies the way he wanted. He did what he was good at for money, and nothing stopped him from being happy. He stepped forward in time to each count subconsciously as he mentally prepared himself.

“Nine!” The count was drawn out and Edward was back from his thoughts. He stopped and readied himself.

“Ten!”

The world was shut out from his senses. Only the other man and the nearby terrain were in his awareness. He dove to the side, turning in the process as he drew the revolvers. It was a quick escape from what he knew was coming. The first shots were fired at where he’d been moments before and they ricocheted off somewhere, or buried themselves in the stone. As he fell, he managed one shot that missed, and the impact with the ground sent the other off through something glass, most likely a window. Edward curled up and rolled as he landed; fluidly rising to his feet, and cocking back the pistols. Shaking off the impact was just another part of the job. His shoulder would hurt later if he won; otherwise it was nothing in the larger scheme. He continued to move as he fired again. This time, his shots were dead on. The first shot went through the arm, a stunning hit preventing next round of shots from coming. The second shot just barely hit the heart enough to kill. The man opposite Edward’s eyes widened and he fell over dead, or very soon to be as sticky redness pooled around him.

Cheers erupted from the street and Edward spun the pistols in a flashy victory move before holstering them as a cart, pulled up. The body was loaded in the back and that was the end of it. Edward smirked and looked at the Golden Gear Tavern. Then he looked at Erin, her smile bright with excitement. “Tell Sparks he has to clear my tab again.”

Erin nodded, certainly relieved. “He needs to stop betting against you.” She went inside to get Edward another drink.

“The day he does, is the day I die,” he called after her with a chuckle. Ed stepped into the tavern and was welcomed by another round of cheers and applause. He shook his head and laughed as he sat down at the bar.

The old mechanic, Sparks, looked at him and shook his head. “I don’t know if I should be happy or not that you keep cleaning out my wallet.”

Ed laughed. “Your contributions to my drinking habit are much appreciated by the town at least. One more bit of trash isn’t going to be bothering anyone,” he said with a smirk. Today’s win meant one more night of binge drinking, on Sparks’ tab of course, lay ahead of him. Clapping his hands together, and with some sleight of hand, he produced a rose that he handed to Erin, as a thank you for her work outside. “Erin. Get me some ale.”