Week 3 Summary

I took notes in purple ink this week.  I like it much more than the red.

We started this week’s lecture talking about Characterization.

What Makes a Great Character?

Exist Beyond the Page

This was a list the students created, to which Sanderson added:

Passions and Motivations Beyond the Main Plot
Interruptions in the Life

Character Arc

Sanderson suggested that you ask yourself questions. For instance, What would your characters be doing if the main plot wasn’t happening?

And then we talked about quirks.

Quirks are ways to humanize characters w/minimal details. Simple things that help the reader understand the character. Things like:

Tells~~~> Always tapping foot, eyepatch, etc
     ~~~~> Quickly characterizes

One way to do this is the Dossier Method. This is where you either find or create your own list of questions that you ask yourself about each character.

Below my notes about the Dosseir Method is a large triangle that’s been cut into three sections.

The top section is rather small. This is what the reader sees.

The Middle section is smaller still, and this is where you hint at details and knowledge that you know exists, but you don’t actually show to the reader in detail.

And then there’s the bottom, by far the largest. This is what you know about your story. The details and information that ultimately isn’t important to the story or characters, and therefore neither appears in or is hinted at in your story.

A side note near the triangle reminds me to Beware World Builder’s Disease.

Also, Sanderson notes that you should skimp on large details and overdue small details. Small details are what make characters and settings feel more realistic.

Another thing Sanderson suggested was to intentionally cast the wrong person. Find a character and put them into your plot. What makes them incapable of filling the role? Usually, that’s a good thing. It creates instant tension. “Stick the square peg in the round hole.”

From there we moved on to the two types of characters. There’s the Everyman, who is normal, the Frodo’s and Sam’s of the world. And then there are the Supermen.

Everymen are relatable, have potential for growth, and are usually the underdog, which we all love. Whereas the Superman is someone to admire and gives the reader a bit of wish fulfillment.

Sam is an Everyman, BUT he has a super power. He has inhuman loyalty. And that loyalty is why Sam is so determined and follows Frodo doggedly. His loyalty is why we all love him.

Aragorn is a Superman. He is capable and unwavering. Someone to admire and aspire to.

These are things you want to think about when building characters.

Then we segued into Character Flaws.

There are three types of Limitations your character can experience. There are Character Flaws, Physical/Mental Limitations, and Handicaps.

Handicaps are external limitations. They tend to be out of the character’s control and don’t necessarily need to be overcome.

Physical/Mental Limitations are internal. They are also out of the character’s control, but will most likely need to be overcome.

And then there are the full blown Character Flaws. These are the Character’s Fault. They have control over them and can change it. These flaws promote growth and add conflict. They also make the reader care.

For instance, a character with Depression. Depression is not a character flaw, it is a Physical/Mental Limitation.

Another reason flaws are important is because they show Incremental Progress. Plot is about a sense of progress. Think about it. Time is arbitrary in writing. You can cover 10 minutes in 10,000 pages or 2 words. It’s up to you.

Below that is the too familiar chart depicting plot. You know the one.  It starts with the introduction, and slowly climbs then drops, until it reaches the climax, and then steadily declines into the end.

This chat that we all know so well also works for character progression.

Think of it in terms of a Try/Fail cycle. The character tries to act and fails, but it helps us like the character more. Sanderson used the example of Han Solo, when Darth Vader appears and Han realizes they’ve been betrayed. Hand doesn’t turn to Lando and say, “You betrayed us!” No. Instead he pulls out his blaster and attempts to blow Darth Vader into smithereens.

Does it work? Of course not, but Han tried anyway. He acted. Instead of talking, which can be boring, he straight up decided to DO something.

Make sure your characters DO things. I know it sounds simple, but there are a lot of words out there in which nothing happens.

And then, the moment we were all waiting for. We started the magic conversation…

It wasn’t much, just the last ten minutes. I paused the video and made myself some ghetto crisps (microwaved quesodillas)  and then hurried back up stairs to the computer. So, my notes are a little scant, seeing as I was stuffing my face during the lecture. The beauty of online class.

Sanderson told us to ask ourselves questions about our magic, just like we do our characters. How do you get the magic? What’s the cost of using it?

You need to outthink your readers about the ramifications of that magic. A good magic system doesn’t just affect the magic, it effects everything!

Brandon admitted that Urban Fantasy is harder, because the magic exists within a world where we already know the rules. Also, the existence of magic will often complicate the character’s viewpoint on religion. Explore that!

And remember, good magic is connected to everything around it.

I tried to condense this week’s summary, because last week was just nuts. But, the lecture itself wasn’t as dense this week, or else it would probably have been about the same length.

I’m learning a lot. And these summaries help me to go back and take a second look at the lecture and really absorb what’s being discussed.

The website was having some difficulties earlier, but I am trying to respond to people’s submissions, though I haven’t had many responses these last two weeks. Not sure what that’s about, but hopefully it’s not a reflection on my work.

Anyway, it’s time to get some lunch and work on my novel. I want to finish chapter 14 today, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen.

Talk at you later blogland,


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