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Column: Crafting characters 500 words at a time

Alexis+Dubree+works+on+the+program%2C+Scrivener%2C+which+allows+her+to+produce+her+book+online.
Alexis Dubree works on the program, Scrivener, which allows her to produce her book online.

Alexis Dubree works on the program, Scrivener, which allows her to produce her book online.

Parker Nolan

Parker Nolan

Alexis Dubree works on the program, Scrivener, which allows her to produce her book online.

Alexis Dubree, Staff Reporter

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I stare at a blank page in the writing software Scrivener, my fingers hovering over the keyboard as I try to come up with words.

Words that are put in order to make a story—the story that means so much to me.

I have one shot, one chance to give my characters the story they deserve.

It’s easy to start a book, to write the first few chapters. The hardest part is finishing the first draft, following through with it until you’ve come to the end of the story you’re trying to tell. I have a strict “no edit” rule while writing my first draft, which means that when I’m writing, even when I see a sentence that could be changed, I leave it. I can change it later; right now, I want to focus on setting a scene.

Characters mean a lot to me. Everyone’s a character– everyone has traits that make them a unique individual– and when you’re writing a character, they’re more than a name on a page. While they can and should be described with their physical traits, like hair and eye color, that’s just scratching the surface of who they are. They all have special quirks, tones of voice, and traits that make them imperfect. A character in a story has to be as complex as a real life person.

Those characters are your characters. They belong to you, even after you show someone else the words that create and shape them. You choose their hair color, their personality, the way they talk, who they like, what they’re interested in. Characters give a story life, provoking feelings and actions.

In this book, and most of my other writings, I tend to focus on character development and their interactions. There are times where I slightly adjust the characters to the plot, but the general idea is the same. In this book especially, I try to focus on making relationships between the characters. Afterall, making relationships in real life is what we do on a regular basis. My goal is to make these characters and their lives as real as possible, all while inserting some fiction to make the story more interesting.

I’ve had my story for years, and I’ve found time to create characters, settings, and storylines. Now I just have to write it down. It’s scary, because after all this time I’ve spent imagining and creating, I have to put down words that properly describe what I have in my head.

I write every day, or at least I try my best. Five hundred words a day, every day, will eventually give you an entire book. If you’re stuck and don’t know where to put your characters next, just write. You can always go back and put more depth in later. After all, that’s what the rewrite is for.

Word by word, chapter by chapter. I’m not sure how long it’ll take, but Stephen King in his memoir “On Writing” says that the first draft should never take more than a season.

When I tell people that I’m writing a book, some of them will look at me like I’m crazy. People like that hate writing a single essay– why would someone want to write something as long as a book? I write fiction for enjoyment, because I love stories, stories with characters that make the book more enjoyable. Some people might never understand why, but that’s OK. I get why some people wouldn’t like to write. My little brother hates to write because writing requires details and description that he simply doesn’t find necessary. It’s just how some people are. It’s their character.

My fingers start to fly across the keyboard, words filling the page almost magically. Five hundred words at a time I write, sometimes more and sometimes less. I have an idea, a story that will mean something, and right now I just have to write.

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