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Old 10-12-2012, 06:58 AM   #1
Jamesabernathyth
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Bringing your characters to life

Creating characters for you story is a complicated and, thought provoking exercise at the best of times, but when your main protagonist is mechanical, breathing the breath of life into him or her, can be quite a challenge...
I'm currently working on series of short stories for young adults entitled "Puffing Hennery T". Set in the 1950's, Hennery T, as you may have guessed; is a steam locomotive, built in the pre British Rails era and, running as a main line train for them. It’s a time of upheaval for B.R due to the massive changeover of rolling stock from steam to diesel and, as Hennery T out dates many of his colleagues, he’s extremely worried as the words out that quite soon he’s due to be decommissioned, which is a polite way of saying; Hennery T’s heading for the scrap yard.
Trying to convey Hennery T’s anguish was difficult, but I finally came up with the idea of blending Hennery T’s thoughts with the rhythm of the wheels on the track as they clattered across each length of rail at speed and again later as he slows down; to ease across a complicated set of points, before entering the station, to convey to the reader just how worried he really was.

“Thundering through the tunnel at the Acrington flyover, his whistle blowing forlornly, Hennery T burst out into the bright autumn day, trailing smoke and steam behind him; his future a constant worry. ‘I’ve got to do something; I’ve got to do something, I’ve got to do something,’ the steel wheels squealed as Hennery T sped down the track towards Warrington Central, ‘but what shall I do… what to be done… what shall I do… what to be done,’ as they slowed before easing across the complicated system of points two hours later and finally entering the rather Grandiose Victorian Station of Warrington Central, Hennery T drew to a gradual and slightly shuddering halt; the passenger carriages clanking together metallically; as they do, only to be lost from view momentarily; amidst a final blast of steam from Hennery’s boiler. Pshhhhh…”


I would be very interested, as I’m sure others would, to learn how you go about, “Breathing the breath of life” into your characters.

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Last edited by Dr. Drib; 10-19-2012 at 02:43 PM. Reason: Additional information
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Old 10-13-2012, 12:04 AM   #2
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Jamesabernathyth

First I love trains so I am predisposed to like this.
Second, I think you are aiming this for the less than 12 set,
but your language is sometimes too adult.

Keep your framework, but work on the language and the expressions.
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Old 10-13-2012, 07:50 AM   #3
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I think it must be very difficult to do in short story situations (I don't really do short). You are reliant on what Stephen King calls the telepathy between writer and reader - you create characters that the reader will understand and relate to because they see something in the character that they know from their own life (and/or reading). To do this without creating stereotypes is difficult, even in longer fiction. In short fiction, children's fiction, and with minor characters in longer fiction, it seems to be necessary to mark a character, often exaggerating some aspect of them - whether that mark is visual, speech or other idiosyncrasy - and then referring to that mark often enough to have it stand out (without being annoying). That mark may be stereotypical to some extent (it's hard to avoid), so you provide other details of make the character more unique, but it is the regular references to that mark that keeps reminding the reader of the person and their nature - that is; it's best if there is something about that mark that relates to their nature.

Or that's the way I see it. I'm not an expert, I just like replying to threads like this one because it makes me think about my own writing and question how well I do what I think I know. (If that makes any sense.)
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:10 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frahse View Post
Jamesabernathyth

First I love trains so I am predisposed to like this.
Second, I think you are aiming this for the less than 12 set,
but your language is sometimes too adult.

Keep your framework, but work on the language and the expressions.
Hello,
That's the second time I've been told thatSo it must be right.I'm now thinking about "Young Adult" 12 years old and and upwards. Thanks for the comment.If you would like to read the whole piece I have it on my blog site.Please P M/ or e-mail me for details.

Last edited by Jamesabernathyth; 10-14-2012 at 09:24 AM. Reason: Additional info
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Old 10-18-2012, 11:42 AM   #5
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‘I’ve got to do something; I’ve got to do something, I’ve got to do something,’ the steel wheels squealed as Hennery T sped down the track towards Warrington Central, ‘but what shall I do… what to be done… what shall I do… what to be done,’
I seem to remeber something like this in Thomas the Tank Engine. But it was a long time ago.
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Old 10-19-2012, 04:45 AM   #6
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I seem to remeber something like this in Thomas the Tank Engine. But it was a long time ago.
It is typical of children's books.

The little train:
"I think I can, I think I can..."

The little goat:

The little tugboat:

The little fish:
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:24 AM   #7
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Isn't that little Obama?
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Old 10-31-2012, 12:59 PM   #8
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I seem to remeber something like this in Thomas the Tank Engine. But it was a long time ago.
I remember reading an article in a Model Railroader magazine some yrs back as to how Thomas the Tank Engine came to be. The son of the author (who was an English Vicar if I remember right) was sick with one of the childhood aliments that young children seem to get and the father was given the task of entertaining his son (everyone else was busy with other tasks). And so he made up a story about a tank engine named Thomas. Later he cobbled together a toy train engine from some wood scraps and the rest was history. The Wind in the Willows was created in a similar way. The authors son liked stories about Mr. Toad and his friends that his father had told him and was sent off on holiday. So his father wrote some down in letter form and the little boys nurse seeing their potential value kept them. More recently the Percy Jackson books by Rick Roirdan came to be written because his son liked Greek Mythology and after hearing all the old stories challenged his father to write a new one.
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Old 10-31-2012, 04:50 PM   #9
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Inspirational!

How many great stories start with a child's wish?
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Old 10-31-2012, 08:27 PM   #10
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Inspirational!

How many great stories start with a child's wish?
I don't know but I wager more than we probably know. Certainly J.R.R. Tolkien wrote stories for his children (The Father Christmas Letters) and he went on to pen a very well known mythology. L. Frank Baum told stories to his children before he went on to create the land of Oz as well and Lewis Carroll told young Alice Liddle and her sisters stories about the rabbit hole and Wonderland.
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Old 11-01-2012, 01:21 PM   #11
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My editor had me do an exercise where I wrote a letter from each of my major characters to her telling her all about themselves. I was pretty skeptical that this would do any good, and practacally had to be forced to do it. But actually it made a huge difference. I'd really recommend it.

S

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Last edited by Dr. Drib; 11-01-2012 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 11-02-2012, 08:26 AM   #12
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My editor had me do an exercise where I wrote a letter from each of my major characters to her telling her all about themselves. I was pretty skeptical that this would do any good, and practacally had to be forced to do it. But actually it made a huge difference. I'd really recommend it.

S

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That is a good tip I might try it for my next story.
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