Don’t forget I’m doing a Fullmetal Alchemist pocket watch giveaway. Here’s how you can enter if you haven’t already.
- Like or share this post on Facebook. Do both to enter twice. (Make sure when you share that it’s set to “public” so that I can see that you shared it.)
- Favorite or Retweet this tweet on Twitter. Do both to enter twice.
- Like or Reblog this post on Tumblr. Do both to enter twice.
- Reblog this “Editing with the Elrics” post you are reading right now.
Winner will be announced at the beginning of August.
In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, there are kind of two main characters. And there are kind of not two main characters. The show follows the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers on a quest. What I found interesting though, is that for the opening episodes of the series, Alphonse (“Al”) as a character is defined by what he isn’t, instead of what he is. Even more interesting, he’s defined by Ed’s character.
Ed, who is really the protagonist here, is loud, hot-tempered, driven, and a talented alchemist. You get that Ed and Al are kind of a tag team, but only because they’re going everywhere together. Really, Al is kind of a background character (to begin with). Mostly, we know him by what he’s not. He’s not loud and hot-tempered like Ed, and he’s not as talented of an alchemist. He’s not a state alchemist like Ed. Sure, he can pack a punch, alongside Ed.
Long backstory short, Al doesn’t have a real body. His soul is bound to a suit of armor as a consequences to a moment of alchemy gone wrong. That’s interesting. But he’s in that suit of armor because of Ed. The only real attention Al gets in the opening episodes is because people mistake him as Ed.
I haven’t seen a character so defined by someone else and by what he is not. I think that’s why it took me a while to learn to love Al. At first, I kind of felt like he was just there to foil Ed. That made me think about how we as writers can likewise define our characters by what they are not and by who they are with. Maybe we should look at that more.
Here’s an example that comes to mind (hope you don’t mind the Trigun references, but I’ve been rewatching it, so it’s fresh on my mind), in Trigun, Vash lives in a world where it’s normal for people to kill other people. As an audience, by seeing others kill and hurt people so casually, it’s easy for us to see what Vash isn’t. He’s not a killer. I think a lot of writers don’t think about defining what their characters are not. Something to consider.
Anyway, I fell in love with Al by the end of the series, and I realized that’s because I felt like I didn’t get to see his real strength and talent until later. Frequently the characters were in situations that favored Ed’s talents and abilities, and since Ed and Al are opposites, that often meant situations where Al didn’t get to show off his strengths.
It’s really not until Ed and Al go their separate ways that we see what Al can really do. And it’s awesome. That’s when I started to love him, because that’s when I started to really get to know him. The writer managed to make her “background” character pop out.
Sometimes quieter characters get overshadowed by the loud ones, so you need to get rid of the loud (if only temporarily) and overly talented ones to show what the quiet guys can do. That’s one reason a lot of mentor characters die in stories. They’re overpowering the pupil. Once they’re gone, we can see what the hero is really made of.
But you can show off the “quiet guys’” strength without separating them. All you need to do is put that character in situations that require his talents and strengths. I would have liked to have seen that more in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I’d like to have seen Ed and Al get stuck in more situations that called for Al’s character traits, situations where he had to lead and Ed had to follow.
But when Al finally is put in situations that favor his strengths—he’s incredible. I love his character. We get to see him travel through a blizzard when no one else can, because he doesn’t have a human body. We see his strengths when he’s caring of others. And while Ed might be the better alchemist, Al is a better fighter. So here’s to the Elric brother that tends to get overshadowed, but he can handle it. He’s a humble character.
So, if you have a character that seems to be blending into the background:
1) Separate her from the characters that are taking all the thunder.
2) Or, put her in circumstances that show off her strengths.
More writing tips with Al next Monday.
This ^ This is perfect ;-;
My dream is to one day write a novel/series that people will love and cherish the way my best friend cherishes books like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire, or the way I love Stephen King’s writing. I want them to fall in love with the characters and the world that they live in, but most of all I want to be an inspiration to people the way the amazing authors of today inspire me. I don’t know why I felt like sharing this on tumblr. I think it was just a random burst of inspiration.
You may have heard of the Snowflake method for writing a story. It goes like this: write a sentence, expand it into a paragraph, expand it to several pages, and so forth.
I’m here to tell you how to reverse the process for marketing your already written story.
1) Summarize the entire plot in ONE single-spaced page. Ideally, you should have four paragraphs, one for the Introduction, the Rising Action, the Climax, and the Ending. This helps you prioritize between major and minor details. If you end up with something longer than a page, cut it down more. Figure out what really matters.
2) Condense single page into ONE paragraph. You’re taking the paragraphs you’ve written in Step 1 and compiling each into a single sentence. Remove the fluff, the semi-fluff, and the almost fluff. Get to the point as quick as possible. Include the spoilers. This is the stuff you put in queries: your novel in a nutshell.
3) Breakdown the paragraph into a SINGLE sentence. This is your elevator pitch, the tweet that helps sell your book. It should include who the story is about, what’s the conflict, and why the reader should care. It’s a lot easier to pick the strongest description when you’re working from a four-sentence paragraph than a 50k novel.
I’d suggest doing this over the course of several days so that each step has time to cool down before you pick at it again.
Start at the end. What is the very last thing that happens?
Ask “what causes this?”
Work backwards. Work backwards. Just keep asking yourself, “What causes this?”
Keep working until you reach the beginning.
Seriously, trust me on this. This thing saved my life.
Tips by Mark Nichol
Originally posted dailywritingtips.com
Descriptions of or references to your characters, their belongings, and their immediate surroundings say much about the people. Here are five aspects of personality that deserve some thought as you develop characters before and during the completion of your novel or short story.
Writers are naturally inclined to make their main characters especially attractive unless they believe there is a very good reason to do otherwise: The character wishes to avoid attention, the story has an ugly duckling theme, or the character is reprehensible (in which case they might nevertheless be, for contrast, extremely good looking).
Don’t introduce your character with an extensive physical appraisal, but do sprinkle hints about their appearance (or don’t — many great works of literature don’t describe main characters’ looks at all). Make sure that physical features are consistent with that person’s ethnic origins, unless there’s a good reason for exceptions.
If you do want readers to visualize your conception of the character, consider not just physical characteristics but also carriage and comportment. How does the person move? Fast, or slow? Purposefully, or uncertainly? Gracefully, or awkwardly? Self-consciously, or without regard for how they are perceived?
How do your characters dress? The period and locale will determine the general costume, but personality is still easily conveyed within these parameters. What does what the people wear say about their social status and about their character? Is their clothing austere, or ostentatious? Prim, or provocative? What kind of accessories, if any, do they wear, and why?
When Describing a Character
- provide enough detail to give the reader a sense of the character’s physical appearance
- highlight details that serve as clues to who the character is and perhaps what their life is like
- describe clothing to establish…
It’s always difficult to receive questions like this because I can’t be sure of what else we can offer you that isn’t already out there.
Check out our Conflict tag. You’re not going to find anything in this answer that hasn’t already been explored there. What you’re essentially after here, Anon, is a personal guide tailored directly to you, explaining how you can write your own novel. Ironically, the only person who has access to that kind of guide is you.
Back to Basics
You have big visions for your story. That’s great! However, you’re not going to get every single idea into your first draft… and you’re definitely not going to get them in there and executed to the standard you expect of yourself.
It’s not that your ability is lacking. You’re not incapable. You’re not doing anything wrong… you’re just setting yourself unbelievably high goals which is why, after two years, you’re still looking at your story in despair and leading yourself to believe you need some kind of Professional Opinion to help you advance.
I doubt this will come as a shock, but I’m not a professional. I’m so far from being a professional I’m like a Wikipedia article for writing advice. Everything I’ve learnt, I’ve taken from the internet (or personal experience) and I’m the kind of article-editor who sources really obscure pdf files and websites that look like they were made by someone with clipart, blingee and Windows 98.
So instead of thinking to yourself, ‘I’d really like to make this novel an intellectual fantasy with lots of philosophy, romance and tragedy’ as you embark on a draft, think instead, ‘I want to finish this draft’.
Before that, you’ll want to write x-amount of words a day. Before even that, you’ll want to put your fingertips to your keyboard and actually press down some keys.
That is the very first step to writing the intellectual, philosophical fantasy novel of your dreams.
You Probably Already Have A Plot
When you’re reading a book, make a note of key events. It’s different to reading for enjoyment… because when you pick up a book that you really love, nothing that happens in it sounds all that absurd. Things are happening, which makes other things happen and it keeps your interest.
Yet as soon as you write out every individual event it all sounds a little… basic. It’s easy to convince yourself that epic, amazing things need to be happening in your story all of the time to make up a good plot.
Generally though, it’s very simple, basic things that kick the story towards the more epic parts later on.
When you make up a plot, it’s probably going to sound generic until you disguise it like the great novel-writers before you with your immense vocabulary and writer-ly wiles.
A plot, put simply, is just ‘things happening’. The fun part is, you get to decide what exactly is happening and why.
Remind yourself of the difference between plot and story for a moment. Then take your characters and position them around the stage of your story and make them do things.
You get a good conflict going by deciding what your main character wants, and making sure most of the other characters and the environment they’re in prevents the main from getting that thing.
Give yourself more credit, too! You have solid characters, so you’re literally one step away from having good, solid conflicts…!
- Writing Conflict: Make Your Character(s) Work
- Coming Up With A Narrative
- Plot Basics
- Conflict in Literature
- Plotting Methods for Meticulous Plotters
- I Have Characters and World, but No Plot!
- How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method
You can write that novel, Anon. I know you can. You just need to take a step back, do some basic graft and then work upwards from there.
i might make this into my writing blog soon. Hm.