I am the featured author today on a month-long event on Facebook hosted by R&M Fab Book Reviews called the R&M Halloween Spooktacular. I have contributed a guest blog, an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Book 3 in The Sword Bearers series, The Sword Bearer’s Awakening, and, most importantly, there are two fantastic reviews on my books!
I’d love you to go on over and take a look and leave a comment. Here’s the link:
Thanks, and have a fantastic day!
- Keeping it Real in an Unreal World (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
- An Invitation: People and Pages That Inspired Me This Week (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
- Things I Discovered and Experienced This Week You Might Also Like (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
The one thing that made the latest Star Wars movies (Episodes 1-3) not work for me was the terribly weak script. Everything else was spectacular except the dialogue. It was stilted, boring, uncomfortable, and above all, it lacked believability.
The first Star Wars movie (Episode 4: A New Hope) is the one that sent my imagination and passion for storytelling into overdrive when I was eight years old because I completely believed in the characters and the brilliant, unique story. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader all had very distinct personalities and they behaved accordingly in every situation they were in. Their responses to every predicament were believable – they were REAL! I bought it because I lived it with them; I was there with them every moment – being chased, shot at, tortured, swerving, diving, and rolling with the Millennium Falcon! It was awesome! But then came the disappointing prequels, which, for me, quite simply sucked in comparison.
Is it because I’ve grown up? I asked myself over and over again. But the more I thought about it and analysed it the more I came to understand that, no, what was wrong was that the characters lacked any kind of credibility and normalcy.
Now how can fantastical characters be normal, you may ask? Isn’t the whole point of fiction that our characters are bigger than life (especially in Fantasy), that they, and the situations they find themselves in, are blown up out of proportion to elicit greater emotion for the reader, to draw them into the story and make them ‘see’ it and experience it, no matter how unreal the story? But tell me, how can you do that without making your characters relatable to the reader, and without creating characters they can understand? How can you expect a reader to become completely absorbed in your story if they can’t ‘see’ themselves there or ‘say the words’ your characters are saying without it being jarring thereby distracting them from the emotional aspect of the story, which shallow, forced dialogue does instantaneously? And then the reader loses interest because they cannot sense the integrity and ‘realness’ of the characters. These are questions I have to ask myself each time I write dialogue in my books.
My characters are like my best friends after creating them and writing them for three years now and counting. I know their personalities inside out, so when I write a scene I know exactly what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it. I know their individual reactions and I know what they’re thinking, too. I can tell immediately if the dialogue isn’t working and if a particular character says something he or she would never say.
In Episodes 1-3 of Star Wars the characters are very tough, very strong, and very individual with distinct personalities, but the dialogue doesn’t match those personalities. Anakin Skywalker does not portray his anguish convincingly enough (granted, the acting isn’t great, either); his change from despairing Jedi into dark lord is pathetic, and the dialogue does nothing to make it real for me. I felt frustrated because I couldn’t ‘feel’ what he was going through – I couldn’t go on his terrible emotional journey with him and fully experience his turmoil as he murdered those Jedi children.
Isn’t that the task of every writer/film maker/poet/artist, to take the observer on an emotional journey with their characters/art? Isn’t that what makes a great story a best seller, a hit that leaves the public clamouring for more?
Yes, the otherworldly circumstances our fantastical characters find themselves in will never really exist, but their emotional experiences certainly do.
KC (my main character) will never be a Sword Bearer in real life and fight an Arch Demon in the coldness of space, but she will have fears and doubts and struggle to come to terms with who she is and deal with her unwanted responsibilities. When she argues with her brother, Khyl, and unleashes her anger on him for not caring about her and causing her so much pain, that’s REAL!! So when they’re dialoguing it has to sound convincing otherwise the reader won’t be able to get involved in the conversation and feel what KC is feeling and feel Khyl’s frustration and guilt!
I watched the latest Star Wars films from a distance and only thoroughly enjoyed the marvels of the special effects and the amazing artistry and costumes and music. But the characters were distant and cold, and I left the theatre feeling flat instead of uplifted and excited and fired-up as I felt after the first film. I missed the magic, the wonder, the adrenalin rush, the powerful longing to be in that world and partake of the awesomest adventure ever!
These are my personal tips for creating believable characters:
Get to know every single one of your characters intimately (if you’ve read my last blog – My Character and I Are One – a Journey into The Sword Bearers Series – you should know your characters are pieces of you, anyway!!); place yourself in their situation in every dialogue you write, and then write it like you mean it! Feel the emotions, the tensions, the subtleties; ‘see’ their actions – why don’t you act it out, if that helps?!! Or even speak it as you write it so that you can experience the emotion in the room – whether it be love, anger, passion, hatred, pain, tears … whatever it is live it for yourself! Dang, I cried when one of my main characters died! The scene was charged with overwhelming emotion and horror and grief, and my tears made the computer screen blurry as I wrote it. When that happened I absolutely KNEW my readers would cry, too!! It was powerful; the scene, the characters, lived!!
Two Excellent Blogs on Character Development
I’ve read two blogs this week about building believable characters that I feel I must share with you. The first one is by Victoria Grefer titled ‘Writing Believable Characters’, and the second by Codey Amprim from the Mythic Scribes website titled ‘Five Tips for Writing Kick-Ass Characters’. Do yourselves a favour and go read them. They offer more great tips on character development that will help you if you need it.
I love hearing from you. What do you do to get your characters to ‘live’, to become believable? Please share it with the class!
I’m a firm believer that your characters are shadows of who you are or who you wish to become.
Writing this tetralogy, there have been countless times when I’ve recognised aspects of myself in each one of my characters. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes quite bizarre, but mostly I’m amazed at how I’ve woven my characters into a story that depict true human emotion and behaviour, even though the fantastical situations they find themselves in could never really happen. (Now I know we can have a long debate about that last statement – I understand as authors of fiction we believe that at least some small elements of our stories are true – but for the sake of this blog let’s just leave it at that!) If I could be my main character for a week, man, I’d just freak out with excitement! Just imagine!! (Yes, yes I know you can!) Here are a handful of the primary characters in my first two books for you to meet, and as you read about them you will find out a little more about me – the nice me and the crazy me! *cackles*
Khyri, the unassuming hero, is all I wish I could be and the person that I know I really am deep down inside – brave, bold, fearless, carefree, guileless, a consummate warrior, and physically very beautiful *sighs*; in fact, visually she’s almost perfect because of who and what she is, the mighty Sword Bearer in possession of the Sword of Heaven, a weapon capable of destroying entire worlds. But she also has a hidden darkness inside her: rage, depression, frustration, a little madness, a deep, soul-wrenching sadness – traits of which I partake every now and then, but just to a much shallower degree. For Khyri, I expanded her emotions to fantastical proportions. This is a powerful, frightening tale of great battles, terrifying confrontations, and ultimate triumph, after all, and if she doesn’t go through the darkness then the glorious light and freedom and joy will not be as bright at the end of her tale.
Drakoor s’et, the protagonist, is the evil, cruel thing I know I can become if I lived in his world and was the cast out, rebellious creature he is. An Arch Demon – once an Arch Angel of the highest order – he is obsessed with his singular goal and kills everyone and everything in his path to pursue it. He has no conscience; he is only filled with rage, hatred, frustration, a lust for revenge, and an obsession to rule beside his brother and master for all eternity. His ambition is to, quite literally, possess the Sword Bearer and free his brethren and claim the ultimate prize: freedom and omnipotence for all eternity. If taking control of someone in sheer desperation and forcing them to do my bidding was the only way I could achieve my goals, the only thing I could do to ensure I’d have all I ever needed to be happy and free forever, would I? Perhaps I would … Perhaps you would …
Yanec, the torn, messed up boy-man becomes the immensely powerful but terribly insecure puppet of Drakoor s’et (he is closely tied to Khyri – that’s all you’re getting. Can’t give too much away, sorry!), and is the person I’ve been quite a few times in my life when I didn’t have the wisdom or confidence, understanding or self-belief to tell people to shove off when they tried to control me! Yanec struggles daily to understand his life with no memory of who he was before he became Drakoor s’et’s First General – the second most powerful man in the galaxy. His mind teeters on the precipice of madness, and his heart and spirit and fettered soul fight to understand his place in the Universe. I sometimes feel like I’m losing my grip (understanding) on life and I question who exactly it is I am. This happened a lot more when I was a teenager. I’m sure you can relate. Yanec symbolises this part of me I hope grows weaker with every passing year and eventually fades as enlightenment comes.
Khyl, Khyri’s oldest brother, is the one who thinks he knows best and pursues his goals without thought for anyone else’s feelings, or stopping to think about the consequences. He’s a prince and the Keeper of the Sword Bearer, and he thinks these titles give him the right to do and say things as he sees fit without apologising to anyone. I’ve leapt into too many things in my life without thinking them through first; again, I did this more when I was a teenager, before I grew up and learned how to do things and go about them properly (it’s called wisdom, Monique). In many ways Khyl still performs like a child, but he also has a singular goal born out of great grief, and in his mind what he’s doing justifies his sometimes callous actions.
Brahn, Khyri’s second oldest brother, is the nurturing, loving, empathetic one who dedicates his life to keeping Khyri safe – the side of me I wish I could be more of to the ones I love. He loves his sister more than his own life, and is prepared to do anything for her. He sees his role as her protector and wants her to just be happy and safe forever. His over-protectiveness can be seen as a flaw, and although I identify this aspect of his personality in myself I hope I don’t behave like that when I have children one day.
The last character I will share with you today is Talisir de Ochre. He’s a character from Book 2, The Sword Bearer’s Journey, and although I hate giving too much of the story away I’ll make a small exception with Talis because he is the coolest character I’ve created, and beside Khyri, he’s the person I’d most like to be – abilities and all!
Talis is a Shadow Weaver. He can manipulate shadows and, quite literally, disappear before your eyes if there are enough shadows around him. He has other very cool abilities – which I can’t share with you right now if I don’t want to spoil the story – and his dedication and loyalty to Khyri is admirable and complete. His stoic self-confidence and lack of guile make him a fantastic character, and as the story progresses the reader discovers that there’s a lot more to the quiet Talis than initially meets the eye. He has this stillness about him that speaks of utter mental calm and inner-peace (and many secrets). He is quite old in human terms, and his race is considered by mortal-kind to be beings of legend and great mystery. Their role in the story slowly unfolds as the reader approaches Book 4, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension. Talis is the kind of person I’d love to be: in control of my emotions at all times, mysterious, non-judgemental, watchful, wise, a great listener, and, of course, a kick-ass warrior!
So there you have it, an insight into my books and some of the characters, and quite a bit about me! But I don’t mind that you know so much about me ‘cause all I have to do is read your work and then I’ll know almost all there is to know about you!! He-he! Here I come!!
I love hearing from you! Do your characters also depict aspects of you, or the kind of person you want to be? I’d love to hear about it.
I love the human spirit! We have the capacity for so much love and generosity that I am frequently left amazed, astounded, and just plain bowled over by the incredible heart and passion and love people show to one another.
Here I am, sitting at my laptop at the southern end of the world, perhaps some might say pretty far removed from where it’s ‘all happening’, and I have met the most wonderful, kind people from across the globe who constantly surprise and uplift me … and they don’t even know me except through the keyboard! From Facebook to Twitter to Goodreads to Triberr, I have come across people I can easily call friends, even though we have never met or spoken face to face. These friends are more than willing to share my world with their many friends without asking for anything in return. Sure, there are expectations: there are hopes that when one shares another’s blog or tweet or Facebook page that one will receive in return. But I bet if you had to ask the question why they do it, and ask those sharers to be dead honest, they would all say because it makes them feel good to support others and help them get seen and noticed, especially when they are newbies. These sharers once were, too, and they remember what it felt like to first get started and be overwhelmed, and then how amazing it was when people started paying attention to them and their work and they started making sales.
If it wasn’t for such generous people, who give without asking in return, who don’t bat an eye when you ask them to help you out by sharing, liking, retweeting, reblogging, and supporting, then none of you would know who I was.
I am pretty new to Social Media and the great, big, world-wide writing community (I’ve only been doing SM and Networking for about five months), but in that time my followers and friends and supporters have grown beyond my wildest expectations! I’ve connected with such amazing writers and businesses, not only businesses in the writing industry but across the board from artists to web designers, consultants, financiers, even air-conditioning tradesmen!! And I thoroughly enjoy everything they share with me because I love meeting new people, and I LOVE being constantly amazed by the incredible skills we human beings posses! We are all so diverse, so interesting, so downright talented I sometimes wish we could make the world go around on that energy alone and forget everything else! Can you imagine how amazing our world would be if we only lived surrounded by all that love and support and friendship every second of every day? Awesome stuff!
So this week my blog is a big “Thank you” to all of you who have contributed to my rise in Social Media-dom and who have helped me connect to the global writing community by putting my name and my work out there in whichever way you did. It is truly an honour knowing every single one of you, and I would like to let you know that my personal commitment is to continue sharing what you give to the world in any way I can, as well. It fills me with such joy and gratitude to support and encourage you and be part of the unique talents each one of you possess, in whatever field you’re in.
To date, my Facebook page is rapidly growing towards 200 Likes; my Twitter followers are now almost 1300, and although I still have a ways to go to reach massive sales of my Epic Fantasy series (something I have every confidence I will achieve one of these days – Go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Goodreads to read more about my books), I couldn’t have done it without YOU!
As I am known to say at every opportunity: YOU GUYS ROCK!!
Share the love, and never stop supporting each other! It comes back to you one way or the other!
Heart Images courtesy of Royalty Free Images at stock.xchng