Character Outlines: How to begin and What to Avoid (3d)

Plot springs from character…I’ve always sort of believed that these people inside me–these characters–know who they are and what they’re about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don’t type.  ~ Anne Larnott

I have been working on a character outline for a while now. Call me traditional, but when it comes to one of my characters I want to know everything.  I even lined up my Barbie’s by age and played with them in that order before I could get to the one I actually wanted to play with!

It is so difficult not to replay a character’s history before getting to the present one wants to write about.  Here are some tips that have helped me along the way to my ideal outline.

How to Begin

Having a character outline allows you to have a good idea of how your character will respond in any situation you put them in.  It prevents your characterization from being false, i.e. if the character isn’t believable the reader will lose interest. Getting a character’s life down depends on a lot of factors. One must consider their past, present and future simultaneously. It’s like being a real psychic—you need to see glimpses of that person’s life to understand them and their future.

Before you begin, remember: the character outline does not have to be perfect.  It can be worked on again and again like any scene you would edit.  As long as it’s the general or main idea of what you need to know about your character.

Mind Map

I would recommend using a mind map before you outline.  Looking at a series of questions is always daunting; better to start with a blank space and a circle. Write down everything and anything even if it is obvious to you.

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In Your Early 20’s: The Quarter-Life Crisis/Before Sunrise (2d)

So many people ignore the trials and tribulations of the 20-something.  And I get it.  No matter what we complain about an older person can say, “Trust me, wait ’til you’re my age.”  But there has been some recognition of what we go through. Some going as far as coining this point in the Westerners life with the term Quarter-Life Crisis; analogous to the popular Midife Crisis the quarter-life crisis generally refers to those in their late teens to early thirties.

Exchanges between early 20 something’s and ‘mature’ adults can be pretty tiresome from the former’s–and possibly the latter’s–perspective. A hypothetical situation:

You and a few older family members and/or friends are sitting around the dinner table.  Let’s say they’re talking about the bad state of the job market and how some guy is changing careers to a job that will increase his job security. 

You bud in and say, “God I don’t want that, you know, having some job just to make money.”

They look at you with a small knowing smile, shaking their heads unconsciously.  They say, “you do what you have to do to live comfortably.”

Perhaps you have been in a similar situation?

If you’re anything like me, at that point you feel an overwhelming dread sweep over you. Maybe they’ll be right in the end. Maybe in three years you’ll end up choosing the cushiony job instead of the one where you could help people.

There are just too many ifs.  We’re constantly told, “You have you’re whole life ahead of you.” But what does that mean exactly? Are we living for now or for ten years from now, and what constitutes really living?

Culture and The Quarter-Life Crisis

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Shedding the Skin of the Essay (4c)

Blog Writing Course…where do I begin?

Here’s a perfect example of what years of essay writing can do to a person:

I have been consistently writing and learning how to write essays for over 6 years and just recently I’ve taken a blog writing course in the hopes to motivate myself to write creatively.

The result of my experience in the blog writing course so far?  Scrambling to learn how to reach such a diverse audience!

Now, getting into blog writing is obviously difficult for any beginner.  But lack of practical assistance in different writing forms really puts me behind.

Mistakenly, I approached my first three blog posts the way I would an essay:

  1. I chose a topic that interested me
  2. In a brainstorming chart I added ideas that corresponded with this topic
  3. I thought of a main point that I would try to make and tried to fit this point into paragraphs.

Wrong, wrong, and WRONG.

The result was an uninteresting mess.

Technical writing and my passion, creative writing, require a different commitment.  The commitment to rigorous organization that the essay calls for is not easy to forget when a writer tries their hand at blog writing or creative writing.

Essay Writing, Now What?

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