WRITER’S BLOCK PART I: CHARACTERS

“We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files, We’d like to help you learn to help yourself.”
-Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”

Characters make the story. You can have a wonderful tale, but unless there is someone (or something if it’s some sort of fable/fantasy-like work) then it’s difficult for the reader to relate or get lost in the world. It’s like putting a face to someone, but not really because you’re reading. We all know people love to compare their lives to other people: fictional, biographical, celebrities, dancing celebrities, random people stuffed onto an island or into a house, and so on.

Weather it is a book character, a real person, someone who is to be portrayed on the silver screen, or an individual a song is about, the readers or audiences need to feel for this character. They need to love them, hate them, feel sympathy, wish misfortune, laugh at and with them, question their actions, and do everything else you probably feel for a real-life family member or peer.

I created a template for my writing that helps me develop characters. One of the enjoyable things that guides me, though it may seem tedious, is giving every character a complete background even if they’re minor and it never comes into play during the story. It helps you understand why they act a certain way, why they speak a certain way, and also assists in writing the character with consistency throughout. Here’s a list of what is on the template:

CHARACTER: Their name or what they’re referred to as in the story. Ex: ‘John Smith’ or ‘Waitress’.
ROLE/OCCUPATION: Depending on genre and format. Ex: Male Lead/Data Analyst
HERITAGE: Even if they’re American, everyone’s family is from somewhere. Ex: English-Irish
RELIGION/POLITICAL: Two controversial character traits, especially in reality. Ex: Catholic/Independent
AGE/APPEARANCE: A vague range works. Ex: Late-20’s/Casual attire, lanky, brown/green (hair and eyes), curly hair, manicured beard, glasses, walks with a slight limp that is barely noticeable.
PERSONALITY: Don’t be afraid to use that Psych 101 material. Ex: Loaner, always rushed, doesn’t sleep much, hypochondriac.
POWER/ATTRIBUTE: Everyone is great, good, or at least average at something. Ex: Math and reading binary code (this can also be used in super-fiction or fantasy as a character’s abilities or powers).
FLAW: Nobody, I mean NOBODY is perfect. Ex: Gets nervous in public settings, stutters speech (this can also be used in super-fiction or fantasy as what can take down a character, like kryptonite).
QUIRK: Mannerism or vocal oddity that separates them from other characters. Ex: Always repositioning glasses.
BACKGROUND: This part can get fun. Ex: Single, every girlfriend he’s had has cheated on him, middle child, parents divorced later in their lives, older sister is married with four kids, younger brother is married with two kids, never participated in athletics, played the clarinet growing up.
GOAL/PURPOSE: They must have a point. Ex: Overcome nerves and unravel a family secret.
FIRST DESCRIPTION/APPEARANCE: Chapters or page numbers. Ex: Ch. 1/Ch. 2 (so John Smith was described by another character or the writer in chapter one, but doesn’t enter the story until chapter two).
TO REMEMBER: Don’t forget to jot things down you write during the story that has to do with your character. Consistency matters.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: The character is still your creation so feel free to add traits as you write.

John Smith has now become a person.

This may seem like a lot of information, but it really isn’t. None of these categories should really consist of more than a sentence, even a couple words at that, except maybe the character’s appearance and background. Keep in mind, this is for the author’s reference, it can be disorganized and grammatically incorrect as much as you want because the reader will most likely never see it until you pass away and it’s auctioned off for a million dollars (monetary compensation based off success of story). Just as long as you, the author, know what you’re talking about.

Three things I can recommend: Give your character something memorable in their appearance, give them a personality disorder, and don’t be afraid to have them break character. Ex: A man with a scar under his lip who is obsessive-compulsive and very serious, but he will tell a quick joke or crack a subtle smile every once in awhile.

So there you have it. You can be as creative as possible, but what it boils down to is that your character will probably be more like a real person (you know or know of), a description of yourself, or a representation of your ideology. Have fun and see if it works! Please feel free to comment questions or opinions!

APD: WE DON’T SHOOT YOU, WE SHOOT EACH OTHER

“I shot the sheriff, But I didn’t shoot no deputy.”
-Bob Marley, “I Shot The Sheriff”

Police departments have been under fire (pun intended, obviously) since last year. Well, given that last year was only a few weeks ago it seems a little worse than it sounds, however, 2014 was a bad year for officers and their relationship with the media and an increasingly disgruntled public. 2015 is off to a bad start as well, but they’re taking public opinions into their own hands it seems.

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Photo courtesy of uloc.de

During an undercover narcotics operation in Albuquerque, a disguised detective was accidently shot by one of his fellow officers. All names have not been released (as of the writing of this sentence), and I’m not an investigative journalist, nor a good researcher, but this mistake could have had fatal implications, and that’s good journalistic intuition (kind of, not really). Two Duke City detectives picked up their drug-dealing suspects and brought them to the scene. After one of the suspects returned from the apartment where he acquired meth to the parking lot, a herd of officers swarmed the vehicle, firing four times (Springer, 2015). Surprisingly, Dick Cheney was not part of the friendly fire, but then again, no one was hunting game, just drug dealers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN2Os3gKKPQ

This situation occurred during the same time District Attorney Kari Brandenburg had charged Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez with murder in the shooting case of James Boyd, a 36-year-old homeless man, back in March of 2014 (Gallagher, 2015). If you’re not familiar with the controversial situation that enraged Albuquerque citizens (many, not all), you can read about it here: http://clknauf.com/2014/04/07/apd-and-protestors-throw-rocks-and-call-each-other-names-one-person-shot-before-recess/

Welcome back from reading and protesting. What exactly is happening with the quick triggers? Maybe it’s the fact that people are on edge, not just officers, of the possibility that America will eventually transition into a war-torn country due to the unnecessary violence. Have you ever been to a nation stricken from the consequences of battle? Have you ever watched like thirty seconds of the news? They don’t appear to be pleasant destinations nor on the bucket list for people to visit, but those mountain views are fantastic.

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Photo courtesy of en.starafrica.com

All of these situations could have been avoided, but both parties are to blame. We’re so set on pointing fingers then lashing out when we don’t get our way. Explain to me how riots and mockery are reasonable reactions to poor authoritative decision-making? Actually, don’t answer that because I already have a good idea how the argument would be presented and never will it reach a conclusion. If people don’t put themselves in sketchy or argumentative situations then problems can be avoided. If authorities rationalize these same situations better, or are trained to address the circumstance in a more civil manner, then the issues could also be avoided. If you’re not doing something wrong, don’t give people the impression you are because then you ultimately will do something wrong that escalates into an even more serious issue. If you can’t make a rational decision based off common sense and detailed analysis, don’t become a police officer. Seriously, get it together, America. Stop breaking the law and stop abusing power. Easier said than done.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovwxBrIBj1w

Gallagher, M. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.abqjournal.com/524987/abqnewsseeker/da-to-seek-murder-charges-against-officers-in-james-boyd-shooting.html on January 15 2015

Springer, M. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.koat.com/news/watch-live-apd-chief-updates-undercover-officer-shooting/30632882 on January 15 2015

REPORT FROM NORTH TEXAS: DUCKS CHOKE ON NUTS WHILE TRYING TO QUACK

“Wanting and waiting, Dreams are fading, Things will never be the same, Ever-changing and rearranging, Will you notice anyway?”
-Zebrahead, “Go”

It has happened: a change for the better. We have officially witnessed (if you were watching last night of course) the evolution of college football in their quest to catch up with nearly every other sport. It took them long enough, but the playoff has paid off (probably literally for some universities, and maybe a booster or two or hundreds). Let’s see how we got there.

January 1st, 2015: Oregon 59 Florida St. 20

Ouch. I mean, “Holy quack.” Maybe Florida St. was awarded a courtesy spot in the playoff because the Ducks made them look bad, really bad. That’s not an entirely true statement; the Seminoles had to be good, they hadn’t lost a game in twenty-nine contests, but four turnovers and poor defense was not a healthy equation to stop Marcus Mariota and the mighty Ducks (am I allowed to call them that without getting sued by Disney?). With five touchdowns in the third quarter alone, Oregon ran the Seminoles out of Pasadena and back to Tallahassee, and Jameis Winston into the draft.

January 1st, 2015: Ohio St. 42 Alabama 35

On the other hand, I guess the system does work. The controversial four-seed Buckeyes pulled off the upset of the number-one ranked Crimson Tide. In a the battle of shades of red, the hits were harder than most games, the athleticism was extraordinary on both sides of the ball for both teams, but if you watched the game, you know that the Alabama punter, JK Scott, stole the show. However, on the winning side, Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 230 yards against one of the best rush defenses in the nation, including an 85-yard scamper that served as the winning touchdown.

January 12th, 2015: Ohio St. 42 Oregon 20

O-H! I-O! OH-wow. Ezekiel Elliot flexed his muscles and really puffy cheeks again, making people wonder why he wasn’t in Heisman contention, and if his tonsils had been removed lately. His follow up to a record-setting Sugar Bowl performance was simply a record-setting national championship performance: 246 yards and four touchdowns. The reigning Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, was shut down for the most part by a strong and athletic defense, Cardale Jones proved he doesn’t stress out like a normal human being, and the game was dominated by a band of brothers who faced adversity all season long: Criticism towards the program and their conference, doubt, four costly turnovers in the championship game, losing two great quarterbacks, and the tragic falling of a teammate. After all that, Brutus is going to Disney World, and the Ducks are going to rethink why they didn’t wear any green or yellow on their uniforms; probably the biggest mistake of last night’s game, Phil Knight.

Oregon fansided com
Photo courtesy of fansided.com

We have our first ever college playoff champion and it wasn’t a SEC team (surprise, surprise). The heralded SEC West went a disappointing 2-5 in their bowl matches while the SEC East had to pick up the slack and win all their games to lift the conference above .500 for the postseason (7-5). As for the two teams who thought they were shunned: In the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, TCU defeated one of those SEC West teams, Ole Miss, 42-3 and Baylor lost to Michigan St., falling 42-41 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Michigan St. was the only team to play both Oregon and Ohio State this year, their only two loses.

The University of Oregon Ducks had an amazing season, and deserved to be in the position they were in more than any other team, so congratulations to them. The Ohio St. University Buckeyes are the national champions, and no one can argue that fact. The playoff was a success. Now to work on some of those sponsor names for the remaining bowls. We’re looking at you, Franklin American Mortgage and Taxslayer.

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Photo courtesy of fansided.com