Tag Archives: Drake

Character Development

 

One of the most important aspects of any story, long or short, is character development. Ask 5 different authors how they take care of this, you will get 12 different answers.  Maybe some of them will work for you, and maybe some won’t.  The part to remember here is that each character is their own individual and they will often have their own ideas on where they want to go.

Now, this works out well if you have no idea where you want the story to go.  You can just let the characters take themselves where they want and write it as it goes along.  Most authors have plans though, and when characters start going off on their own direction, we get testy.

For me, the best way to avoid this problem is to work with the characters and get to know them better.  Then you know how they will react in certain situations and you won’t be surprised at how they fight, beg, or bluff their way out of it.

I’ve recently took a character from four or five years ago, who was the first one I ever created: my vampire Drake.  He remains one of my favorites to write, but was a true Marty Stu when I created him back when I was 14.  By giving myself challenges such as “write a story with only  two lines of dialogue” or “only use dialogue”, it really helps to get to know him better, and discoveries about Drake and his motivations truly come to the foreground.

I challenge you to write your own vignette using a character of your choice.  See what you can discover about them that might make for an interesting plot hook later.  Remember, if you don’t like it, you can always refuse to use it in later writings.  But you might be surprised at how it can end up being useful.

If interested, below is the challenge of “using two lines of dialogue”.  Up to you if you want to read it though.

Drake stared at the two humans dancing together in the nightclub. In the shadows, he could barely be seen but he was able to watch everything in the club without being noticed. He saw them writhe against one another, arousal scenting the air from both of them, mingling with the other smells of the club. Stale beer, fresh wine, and blood pumping away centimeters beneath the surface of the skin. His teeth iched and her ran a tongue over them to calm it for a bit in order to find his meal that night.

The dancers would notice if each other disappeared. They weren’t on his plate for tonight.

His gaze moved to a lone woman sitting at the bar. She looked despondent, depressed and completely lonely. With a smirk slowly slinking onto his face, he sauntered over to her and took a seat at the stool next to her. “Guinness here,” he told the bartended, letting his accent get rougher and hold more of a Cockney accent than the North London one he actually had.

It had the desired effect, he noted, when the woman perked up next to him. He pretended to notice her for the first time and gave her one of his smirks. “And a fruity drink for the lady here.”

When the drinks came, he held her enthralled with conversation, slipping touches in here and there to bring her attention back to him whenever it was wavering. He played her like an instrument, knowing which buttons to push, and read her like a book, knowing the exact words to say, the correct emotion to reveal to her in order to get her to trust him more.

While others might have said that it was a waste of time, it made the hunt even better for him. There was actually a challenge to it.

She told him around 1am that she needed to go, that she had work the next day. He asked her if he could walk her out, protect her from all the horrors of the night.

She nodded and took his offered arm and he smiled at her, though his eyes glinted. He asked her if she had a boyfriend and acted affronted when she told him no.
With a joking grin, he asked about a girlfriend and she just laughed.

It proved impossible to try to hail a cab at this hour, so he offered his car to drive her home in. She agreed and the two walked away from the club together.

Ten minutes later, he walked back alone, hunger sated, as he took a seat on his motorcycle and took to the streets before the body was even cold.

To those in the states, have a Happy Labor Day.  For myself… I’m off to work.

 

EDIT: Featured on Suspense Author’s Writing Tips on September 5th, 2011.  http://paper.li/SuspenseAuthors/1312942086


What Makes It Work (and What Doesn’t)

So, here we go then.  A line by line run through of what I did wrong here, six or seven years after I wrote this.

°°°°°°°°°°
Xzior awoke a few hours before dawn from a knock at the front door.  “Come in,” she said, her head still groggy.  For one thing, my grammar was atrocious here.  So I added in some commas and put the two lines together.

Drake walk in a moment later and  closed the door quietly behind him.  Xzior looked over and saw him in the coat with a shirt draped over his arm. I really need to learn to use personal pronouns here.  Xzior, this, Xzior that…man…that sucks

“Nice coat.  Who’d you rob?”
            “Surprisingly enough, no one.”  Drake responded.”  Person named Evan gave it to me after he and I faced down a mage that tried to kill me.”
“Any clue why he tried to?”  My gods, this entire dialogue section is so…stilted.  Let’s see what I can do to make it better.  “Nice coat.  Who’d you kill for it?”  “No one, actually.  Guy named Evan shoved it at me.  We killed a mage together.  Makes for fast friends,” Drake told her.  “A mage?  Why would a mage attack you?”

“Not one, except he said his ‘master’ had told him to.”

“Did you try to get more information about this master of his?”
            “It’s kind of hard to talk to a dead person you know.  He killed himself after he said that.”

 “I would’ve liked to learn more.”
           
“Funny, that’s the exact same thing I said.”  he looked around the room, and seeing no one around he asked hesitantly, “Mind if I crash here again tonight?  Or rather, today?”
           
“No, your room is still open.  It can be yours to keep if you want it.”
            “
Thanks.”  he said, going down the hallway.  A moment later, Xzior heard the door close.  Another awful exchange here, I think.  Let’s see…  “No idea why a mage would attack.  Just said that his ‘master’ had ordered him to.”  “Ordered him to?  What kind of person is a mage’s master?!”  “No idea.  Tried to ask, but rather hard to get info from a dead guy unless you happen to be one of those necromatic types”  “Still, I would’ve liked to have know more.”  “You and me both.”  He looked around, and then, embarrassment in his tone, asked, “So, mind if I crash here again tonight?  Or today.  Time’s confusing”  She sighed.  “No, go ahead.  At this point, the room’s yours.  Never get the vamp smell out of it.”  Drake rolled his eyes and went off down the hall.  A moment later, the noise of a door slamming shut could be heard throughout the house.
            
 “No problem.”  she muttered to herself.
            Xzior laid back down on the couch and tried to get back too sleep.  She couldn’t do it though.  Finally, she got up and started pacing about the living room, trying to make sense of here feelings and problems.  When that didn’t work, she went into the kitchen to make herself some hot tea.
           
She put water in an old, battered, copper kettle and turned on the stove.  Then she went over to the table and sat down, placing her head in her hands.
             
She awoke later to the sound of the kettle whistling.  She sighed and got up to turn off the stove.  Then she got out a coffee cup and waited for the tea to steep.  Then, with out bothering to add sugar, she drank it all down in three large gulps.  Great gods, but I use the word ‘then’ a lot…  Take the then’s out, this is actually…readable.  Huh, impressive for 14 year old me.
           
It seemed to calm here stomach enough so that she could get some sleep.  She went back to her couch to lay down again.  Little by little, she finally drifted into a dreamless sleep.
             
When she awoke the next morning, the sun was shinning directly into her eyes through the large, bay window behind her.  She got up and rubbed here eyes to try and wake up.
           
Eventually, she was able to get together a semblance of awareness and stumbled down the hall into here room.  There, she went to her closet to pick out here clothes for the day.  She finally decided on a black shirt with blue jeans and proceeded to change here clothes.  I’m the writer, and even I don’t care about her clothes…  Be a lot better if I just went….  ” She rubber her eyes and tried to wake up.  When she thought she could stand without falling back to the couch, she stumbled down the hall to her room for clothes.  ” and left it at that.
           
When she came out of her room, she went over to the bathroom to get here hairbrush, but the door was closed. Xzior knocked on the door loudly.
            “
What?”, sounded a voice form inside. Xzior recognized it as Millennium’s.
            
 “Millennium, it’s Xzior. Can I have my hairbrush and a ponytail?”   Of course it’s Xzior, you nit…It’s her house.  And why is she in the shower again?  Did I have her spend the night?  Bad author technique here.  Always remember where you put your characters.  And ‘knocked on the door loudly’ sounds…crappy.  Knocked loudly on the door is far better.
             
“Sure.”  Millennium responded. There was an opening of draws and a shuffling noise before the door opened a crack and Millennium hand appeared holding a hairbrush with a pony tail wrapped around it.
           
Xzior took it, and Millennium closed the door as soon as both of their hands were out of the way.
           
“Thanks girl.”   Once again…no idea on the dialogue here.  It’s just…not needed. at all. She said through the door.  Wandering down he hall, Xzior brushed here hair until all of the knots were out of it.  Then ah, my old friend ‘then’.  I see we meet again., as she entered the kitchen, she put up here hair to prepare to face the day.  “Millennium,” she yelled over here shoulder,”  what do you want to eat for breakfast?”
           
“How about a bagel?”  Millennium responded, walking into the kitchen, drying her hair.  Wait, I had her in the shower? ….how did she hand out the hairbrush if she was in the shower?!
           
“Want cream cheese on it?”
            
 “No thanks.  I’ll just have it plain and toasted.”
           
“How about just plain and not toasted.  The toaster’s busted.”
           
“Fine.  Your toaster burnt everything anyway.”
             
Xzior rolled here eyes and got out the bag of bagels from the fridge.  “catch.”  she said, throwing a bagel to Millennium.
           
She made a dive, but missed.  She quickly picked it up and dusted it off. “five second rule.”  she explained, biting into it. I have yet to see why this is even important.  I could take out this whole scene if I just said “they had breakfast”.  I guess it shows their interaction and how good of friends they are, but that is also seen earlier when Millennium was in Xzior’s bathroom and no one blinked an eye at it.
           
“Ah.”  Xzior said, nodding. Then she got one out of the bag and bit into it. “Not bad.  I like them better toasted though.”
             
“Different strokes for different folks, I guess.”
           
Xzior nodded. “True.”  I’m taking the above three lines out.  Just…useless.  And it really slows the flow of the story.
            
 A little later, when they were done with their breakfast, there was a knock on the door.
“I’ll get it.”  said Millennium, getting up.  She opened up the front door and Evan was standing there.  Bad author!  bad author!  Only Drake has met Evan at this point.  They have no idea who the strange man is at their door!
           
“Excuse my bluntness, but who the hell are you?”  …as evidenced by this.
          
  “I’m Evan McCloud!  I wandered into that alley back there and next thing I knew I was here.”
           
“Like hell you did.  How long did you practice that speech?”
           
“Not once.”
           
“It shows.” Millennium turned towards Xzior. “Can I kill him?  Please?!”  Um…..no idea what I was thinking for this exchange. If a strange man showed up on my doorstep, I wouldn’t answer the door, and I wouldn’t leave it open as I talked to the house owner
           
“What did you say his name was again?” said Xzior, getting up off the couch.
             
“I’m Evan McCloud.  I said that before.”
            
 “Would you by chance know a Drake?”
             
“Yeah, met him last night, why?”  Were I writing this now, I would have Evan say that he had met Drake immediately. Would make more sense as to why Xzior isn’t just tossing him off her doorstep
           
Xzior turned to Millennium,  “Sorry, no killing him today.  Can’t win or rather…kill them all.”  Bad joke is bad.  This….this just needs to go.
           
Xzior laughed then turned back to Evan.  “What are doing here?”  I mention names too often here.  Embrace the pronouns! And I really need to vary up how the sentences are structured. 
           
“Would you believe I just stumbled in?”
           
“No.”
           
“Didn’t think so.”
          
  “Then why’d you try?”
          
  “It was worth a shot.”
           
“I’ll give you brownie points for that.  Now tell me, why are you really here?”
             
“Alright. Last night, Drake told me that he was hopefully going to be staying with you.  I ended up following him and saw him disappear into the alleyway.  I hung out there until this morning when I went through and came here. I had a hell of a time trying to find your house.  You should put up maps that have a little star on them saying ‘You are here’ or something” This would be a far better start to that conversation than what was just above.  Take all of above out after Millennium opens the door and begin it here.  As long as I take out the bit about “little stars”.
            
 “That makes things to easy for unwanted visitors.  At least I know they have to work in order to find their way to my house.”  Xzior said,  wandering back into the living room.  Millennium followed her a moment later with Evan directly behind her.
          
  “So, can I stay here?”  He asked hopefully.  Wait…wait…why does he need a place to stay and why is the H in he capitalized?!  Oh, the questions I give myself
           
“What do you think Millennium?  Do we keep ‘em or turn him away?”
           
“I think we give him a trial run.  You know, see if he knows how to clean up after him self and not burn the macaroni and cheese.”
           
“You did that?” asked Xzior.
            
 “Off topic, but yes I did a long time ago.  I’ve become a much better cook since then.” 
           
“I’m not anxious to test that theory if you don’t mind me saying so.”  See, now this exchange about mac and cheese I like.  It shows that the two women are comfortable around one another
           
“I don’t care.”  As long as I end it before this line.
           
“Alright then Evan,”  started Xzior, “you can stay.  There’s a room up the stairs behind you there that you can stay in.”
           
Evan turned around and didn’t see any stairs.  “What stairs?”
           
Millennium waved here right hand about and abruptly, a set of stairs with rooms at the end of it appeared.  “Those stairs.  Now Get!”  she said, pushing Evan towards the stairs.  Magic house yay!…….So totally should have planned that better rather than have magic fix everything
             
“I’m going.  Relax.” he said, shaking her off.  Come to think of it, did I even have a reason for Evan to move in with Xzior aside from ‘need to get everyone into the same house asap’?  And why the same house…
           
Xzior and Millennium plopped down on the couch together and sighed.  Xzior turned to Millennium and said.  “I need a bigger house.”  Pronouns!  I miss you!  Come back!
           
“Yeah, “ she replied, “ that you do.”

For your enjoyment

Talking with Liz of Green Eye Editing tonight, we discussed some of our earliest writings and how we have improved since then.  My first story was that of a vampire named Drake Coldheart.  And while writing it, I fell into every single writing pitfall and cliche that there is. The vampire was GOOD because…because…he was.  And EPICLY POWERED EVIL bad guys that want to RULE THE WORLD MWAHAHAHAHAH even though they have no reason to aside from the fact they can.  And character names that make NO SENSE, but sound epic, like Millennium, Rane, Xzior and Shayde.  Drake and Evan seemed normal compared to those. And Rane had a pet panther.

Yeah, I don’t know about that one either….

My writing was…atrocious and the dialogue wasn’t much better.

I still have it all.

So here, have an excerpt of the first (because all good fantasy books come in threes, thought 14/15 year old me, and mine is going to be AMAZING!) of Drake’s novels.  By the time I got around to writing the third, it was painful for me to go back and read this. So I like to think I got a lot better.  Tomorrow, I plan to go through this excerpt line by line and discuss what makes it work–and, more likely, what doesn’t.

Please, enjoy my humiliation. :)

Xzior awoke a few hours before dawn from a knock at the front door.
“Come in.” She said, her head still groggy.
Drake walk in a moment later and  closed the door quietly behind him.  Xzior looked over and saw him in the coat with a shirt draped over his arm.
“Nice coat.  Who’d you rob?”
            “Surprisingly enough, no one.”  Drake responded.”  Person named Evan gave it to me after he and I faced down a mage that tried to kill me.”
Any clue why he tried to?”
“Not one, except he said his ‘master’ had told him to.”
“Did you try to get more information about this master of his?”
            “It’s kind of hard to talk to a dead person you know.  He killed himself after he said that.”
 “I would’ve liked to learn more.”
           
“Funny, that’s the exact same thing I said.”  he looked around the room, and seeing no one around he asked hesitantly, “Mind if I crash here again tonight?  Or rather, today?”
           
“No, your room is still open.  It can be yours to keep if you want it.”
           
Thanks.”  he said, going down the hallway.  A moment later, Xzior heard the door close.
            
 “No problem.”  she muttered to herself.
            Xzior laid back down on the couch and tried to get back too sleep.  She couldn’t do it though.  Finally, she got up and started pacing about the living room, trying to make sense of here feelings and problems.  When that didn’t work, she went into the kitchen to make herself some hot tea.
           
She put water in an old, battered, copper kettle and turned on the stove.  Then she went over to the table and sat down, placing her head in her hands.
             
She awoke later to the sound of the kettle whistling.  She sighed and got up to turn off the stove.  Then se got out a coffee cup and waited for the tea to steep.  Then, with out bothering to add sugar, she drank it all down in three large gulps.
           
It seemed to calm here stomach enough so that she could get some sleep.  She went back to her couch to lay down again.  Little by little, she finally drifted into a dreamless sleep.
             
When she awoke the next morning, the sun was shinning directly into here eyes through the large, boy window behind her.  She got up and rubbed here eyes to try and wake up.
           
Eventually, she was able to get together a semblance of awareness and stumbled down the hall into here room.  There, she went to her closet to pick out here clothes for the day.  She finally decided on a black shirt with blue jeans and proceeded to change here clothes.
           
When she came out of her room, she went over to the bathroom to get here hairbrush, but the door was closed Xzior knocked on the door loudly.
           
What?”, sounded a voice form inside. Xzior recognized it as Millennium’s.
            
 “Millennium, it’s Xzior. Can I have my hairbrush and a ponytail?”
             
“Sure.”  Millennium responded. There was an opening of draws and a shuffling noise before the door opened a crack and Millennium hand appeared holding a hairbrush with a pony tail wrapped around it.
           
Xzior took it, and Millennium closed the door as soon as both of their hands were out of the way.
           
“Thanks girl.”  She said through the door.  Wandering down he hall, Xzior brushed here hair until all of the knots were out of it.  Then, as she entered the kitchen, she put up here hair to prepare to face the day.  “Millennium, she yelled over here shoulder,”  what do you want to eat for breakfast?”
           
How about a bagel?”  Millennium responded, walking into the kitchen, drying her hair.
           
“Want cream cheese on it?”
            
 “No thanks.  I’ll just have it plain and toasted.”
           
“How about just plain and not toasted.  The toaster’s busted.”
           
“Fine.  Your toaster burnt everything anyway.”
             
Xzior rolled here eyes and got out the bag of bagels from the fridge.  “catch.”  she said, throwing a bagel to Millennium.
           
She made a dive, but missed.  She quickly picked it up and dusted it off. “five second rule.”  she explained, biting into it.
           
“Ah.”  Xzior said, nodding. Then she got one out of the bag and bit into it. “Not bad.  I like them better toasted though.”
             
“Different strokes for different folks, I guess.”
           
Xzior nodded. “True.”
            
 A little later, when they were done with their breakfast, there was a knock on the door.
“I’ll get it.”  said Millennium, getting up.  She opened up the front door and Evan was standing there.
           
“Excuse my bluntness, but who the hell are you?”
          
  “I’m Evan McCloud!  I wandered into that alley back there and next thing I knew I was here.”
           
“Like hell you did.  How long did you practice that speech?”
           
“Not once.”
           
“It shows.” Millennium turned towards Xzior. “Can I kill him?  Please?!”
           
“What did you say his name was again?” said Xzior, getting up off the couch.
             
“I’m Evan McCloud.  I said that before.”
            
 “Would you by chance know a Drake?”
             
“Yeah, met him last night, why?”
           
Xzior turned to Millennium,  “Sorry, no killing him today.  Can’t win or rather…kill them all.”
           
Xzior laughed then turned back to Evan.  “What are doing here?”
           
“Would you believe I just stumbled in?”
           
“No.”
           
“Didn’t think so.”
          
  “Then why’d you try?”
          
  “It was worth a shot.”
           
“I’ll give you brownie points for that.  Now tell me, why are you really here?”
             
“Alright. Last night, Drake told me that he was hopefully going to be staying with you.  I ended up following him and saw him disappear into the alleyway.  I hung out there until this morning when I went through and came here. I had a hell of a time trying to find your house.  You should put up maps that have a little star on them saying ‘You are here’ or something”
            
 “That makes things to easy for unwanted visitors.  At least I know they have to work in order to find their way to my house.”  Xzior said,  wandering back into the living room.  Millennium followed her a moment later with Evan directly behind her.
          
  “So, can I stay here?”  He asked hopefully.
           
“What do you think Millennium?  Do we keep ‘em or turn him away?”
           
“I think we give him a trial run.  You know, see if he knows how to clean up after him self and not burn the macaroni and cheese.”
           
“You did that?” asked Xzior.
            
 “Off topic, but yes I did a long time ago.  I’ve become a much better cook since then.”
           
“I’m not anxious to test that theory if you don’t mind me saying so.”
           
“I don’t care.”
           
“Alright then Evan,”  started Xzior, “you can stay.  There’s a room up the stairs behind you there that you can stay in.”
           
Evan turned around and didn’t see any stairs.  “What stairs?”
           
Millennium waved here right hand about and abruptly, a set of stairs with rooms at the end of it appeared.  “Those stairs.  Now Get!”  she said, pushing Evan towards the stairs.
             
“I’m going.  Relax.” he said, shaking here off.
           
Xzior and Millennium plopped down on the couch together and sighed.  Xzior turned to Millennium and said.  “I need a bigger house.”
           
“Yea, “ she replied, “ that you do.”