Tag Archives: writing class

Character Development with Online Quizzes

I know, I’m blogging a lot this week! I can’t help it—I’ve been learning so much at my Dark Fantasy writing class and I’m coming home each day just buzzing with stuff I want to share.

Yesterday’s assignment was to take an online quiz as one of your characters and note which question gave you the most difficulty. This should give you an idea of where you need to learn more about your character.

I’ve never enjoyed doing those character worksheets you’ll see a lot of writers talking about. Whenever I did them, it felt very forced to me. Sure, I’d have notes on what kind of food my character liked to eat, whether she wore classic clothing or grungewear, or what kind of handbag she carried, but I always felt like I was just grabbing things out of thin air rather than having my character develop in a more organic manner.

Well, I just have to say, this online quiz assignment just blew me away. Unlike filling in a worksheet, where the questions are all pretty standard (favorite food? childhood incident that scarred your character? favorite color?), the questions in a lot of these quizzes are fun (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever taken one you saw someone post on Facebook). And I could actually feel myself thinking like my character—being my character—as I took the quiz!

And best of all, after you’re done you get an assessment which pretty much lays out what your character is like about certain things, and (at least when I did it) it was pretty spot on to what my character really is like—plus it gave me an idea what he was like in areas I’d never really thought about it.

Taking the quiz added to my knowledge of my character in a way that felt very organic to me. And it was fun.

It didn’t really help me see where I needed to learn more about a character, because I don’t normally do much character work before I begin writing, other than the occasional back story. But what a great tool for getting to know your character better!

So I’m adding this to my writer’s toolbox now. I’m also putting together a list of online quizzes that will be helpful for developing characters. So far I’ve got the following:

Myers-Briggs Test The classic psych personality test, this is the initial one I had my character take.

You Just Get Me With this one you answer 40 easy questions and you get a personality “bubblechart” when you’re finished.

Enneagram Test This one will place your character as one type among nine different types.

Which Three Words Best Describe You This one probably works best when you’re first starting out developing your character and know very little about her.

What Would Be Your Fate in the Hunger Games? Okay, this one is mostly pure fun, but my character did find out he’d win the games through sheer cunning.

What Career Should You Actually Have? Another fun one, but the little blurb they give you on why you should have that career is interesting.

The Sorting Hat Quiz This one isn’t on Pottermore but has all the questions from Pottermore. Aside from getting sorted, going through the questions as your character is very helpful because there are a lot of character revealing questions. My character belongs to Ravenclaw. I kind of knew that going in.

What about you? Have you come across any personality test or online quizzes that might be helpful for building a fictional character?

Where I Discover I’m Terrible at Loglines

Today in Kelley Armstrong’s Dark Fantasy writing class we talked about loglines.

The term loglines comes from the movie business. All scripts need a logline; apparently this is what movie producers and studios read first, rather than the actual script itself, in order to decide if they’re interested.

Here’s a logline I bet you’ll be able to identify (courtesy of Writing Good Loglines):

A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.

And how about this one?

A young farmer from a distant planet joins the rebellion to save his home planet from the evil empire when he discovers he is a warrior with legendary psychokinesis powers.

Pretty recognizable, right?

It turns out, though, that writing loglines isn’t easy. At least not for me. I wish I’d found the Writing Good Loglines page last night, when I was attempting to put together a logline for today’s class. It might have helped me a little!

This is the logline I ended up writing. I didn’t like it at all when I finished writing it—first, it was too long. And second, it made my entire story sound so trite and boring.

When a series of abductions and brutal murders rock the quiet town of Market Crossing, the forces of good and evil must work together to defeat an ancient enemy that threatens to annihilate all life on Earth.

After Kelley wrote my logline on the board, she pointed out the three tropes or clichés I was using. Yes, that’s right—not just one, or two, but THREE tropes.  “The forces of good and evil”, “defeat an ancient enemy” and “annihilate all life on Earth”. No wonder my logline made my story sound so boring!

Luckily, both Kelley and my fellow classmates had suggestions and ideas. I used their feedback and came up with this revised logline:

When abductions and brutal murders devastate a quiet town, two teens must team up with the human embodiments of ancient forces.

Much shorter and no clichés. But I felt like it was missing something. So after class today I worked on it some more and came up with this:

Two gifted teens must join forces with a guardian spirit and a demon lord to solve a series of abductions and brutal murders devastating a quiet town.

I think that’s a little better, because it’s more specific. And it’s more specific because I finally made myself sit down and figure out who exactly one of my characters was. I still don’t quite know who she is for sure, but at least I know a bit more.

The best thing about this logline exercise? It made me see more clearly the story I’m writing. Since I don’t outline, this is pretty invaluable. I already have some revisions in mind!

First Day of My Dark Fantasy Writing Class

So most of you know how nervous I’ve been about taking my first ever writing class/workshop. Nervous isn’t the right word, actually. Petrified is more like it. And stressed. Totally and absolutely stressed.

Well, I had my first day of class today. And while I was waiting for the elevator, I took a deep breath and told myself to think of it as an adventure. Which, strangely enough, really helped.

Despite this, I missed my subway stop. Fortunately, I was early, so that just made me a little less early.

And guess what?

I LOVED the class. Every last bit of it!

First of all, Kelley Armstrong is an awesome instructor. Simply and absolutely awesome (I’m not supposed to be using all those adjectives but I can’t help myself). She’s very down-to-earth and that was inspiring in and of itself—sometimes when I think about writing, it feels so precious. Too precious. And that’s when I stop myself from sitting down and actually writing. But Kelley talks about writing so matter-of-factly. There is no magic or mystique. It’s just about spending time doing what you love to do, and that’s something I lose track of sometimes.

We spent a bit of time talking about giving and receiving critiques, which I found extremely helpful. And then some of us read two pages of our opening scenes. I was NOT expecting this, and when I read my scene my voice quavered and my hands shook.

But it was worth it. The criticism I got was really good. Most of it was on point. Some things I wasn’t sure about, and a few things I knew weren’t right for me. Kelley had pointed out that approximately 85% of the comments she gets back from editors gets a clear “yes” from her, 10% she’s not sure about, and 5% are a clear “no”, and that was roughly how it panned out for me.

So now I have this list of things I want to change when I do my revisions. AND I’m all fired up about my story again.

Plus I feel like a writer. I feel I can do this, commit to my stories, get them finished and start the querying process.

But the most surprising thing for me? I ended up chatting with several of the other students, and it was such a wonderful feeling talking with other people who also love to write fiction. I tend to think of myself as an introvert, but I didn’t feel introverted at all today. It turns out, when you have a common ground like writing—especially when you enjoy writing the same kind of stuff—conversation is a breeze. Everyone I talked to was so interesting; I wanted to learn more about them, about what they’ve been writing, about their writing process.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and the rest of the week. At the end of the course, we can submit revised pages of our work to Kelley—AND she’ll give us detailed comments if we’d like. I absolutely would like!

I have not felt so fired up about my writing in a long while. This class is definitely a good thing for me.