From a very young age, I have been fascinated by owls. I love owls, as do many other people I meet. According to psychologists, these birds are sympathetic to us for having an ‘almost human face.’ Let’s see if they’re right:
And this isn’t a hint that Johnny Depp looks like an owl. I just picked someone most of us know. Two eyes, a nose, and a mustache. Compared to other birds owls have both eyes on the front of their head instead of the side. But this isn’t the subject of this blog post.
As I said, I’m fascinated by owls. There are many mysterious facts about them:
An owls’ eyes are immobile; they cannot ‘roll their eyes’ or move the eyeballs. They can focus on pray. But then, they can turn their heads about 270 degrees.
Their ears are asymmetric; one ear sits higher on the head than the other. Since they have excellent hearing, this way they can hear sound in different dimensions.
Lager owls eat small ones. And an owl can eat up to 1,000 mice a year. They swallow them entirely: tail, fur, feet – everything. Later they choke up what their body can’t digest. Occasionally these pellets can be found on the ground in the woods.
The smallest owl on Earth is the Elf Owl, which is 5 – 6 inches tall and weighs about 1 ½ ounces. The largest North American owl, in appearance, is the Great Gray Owl, which is up to 32 inches tall.
Superstitious people in certain parts of the world still believe owls are death omens. In wide parts of Europe owls have been killed by the hundreds because, in particular, farmers believed, owls are a bad sign of destruction. Until in the early 70’s these stupid people nailed owls to their sheds with their wings spread and left them to hang to die and believed this way they could protect their crop, animals, and house from disaster, accident and natural force.
For a very long time, owls have been a symbol of scholarliness and wisdom. It seems the origin of this habit goes back to the Ancient Greeks: In Greek mythology, a little owl (Athene noctua) traditionally represents or accompanies Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom, or Minerva, her syncretic incarnation in Roman mythology. Because of such association, the bird — often referred to as the “owl of Athena” or the “owl of Minerva” — has been used as a symbol of knowledge, wisdom, perspicacity and erudition throughout the Western world. (Source Wikipedia)
To me, they have a trace of magic about them.
The series of books I am currently writing is classified between paranormal romance and fantasy, and there is some magic involved. For a while now I have considered adding an owl to one of the stories. But I cannot place it.
No matter how much I think and try, no matter how fascinated I am by owls, that particular owl has no room in these books. It would feel like an alien within those stories. I even considered to build a story around the owl to add it, but it doesn’t make sense at all. It seems owls are not foreseen to be in this book series.
I then thought I might write another story about an owl. But I admit, I didn’t see a plot that does not make a children’s book. At this point, I never considered writing a children’s book. So, what am I doing with my owl?
Does anyone have an idea? And did anyone of you authors out there have an idea for a character and found out that it doesn’t fit into the book you’re writing? What did you do? How did it make you feel? I’d be happy to read from you in my comments.
When I start developing a character sometimes, I construct the person in my head; then I start writing down how she/he is going to be. First the ‘shell,’ then the inside. I very rarely ‘use’ someone I already know… someone I have met or is familiar to me.
It’s more that sometimes I recognize later, after the first draft, when I’m typing the book into the computer, that I find similarities with people I know.
This one time it’s a bit different.
A couple of months back I met a new co-worker of mine. She’s simply beautiful with her shiny black hair, blue ocean deep eyes, and her open, symmetrical heart-shaped face.
We talked about her descants and found out; she’s Irish. After talking to her and listening to her wonderful Irish accent, I decided I would love to use her as one of my main characters in one of…
In my last ‘Writing Progress’ post, I wrote about finishing the draft of my second book in the series which I just had drafted by then. In the meantime, I had typed it in, edited it and sent it to my editor. It, in fact, turned out to be a novel, not a novella, like the other two books, number one and three in the series.
Shortly before I went on vacation, I had finished drafting the fourth book in the series. I posted this in my newsletter, and I’m still very proud of it.
I took the fifth and sixth book of the series with me on vacation. I had started both but wasn’t too far yet. But my friend’s backyard and pool were extremely calming and relaxing and tickled my fantasy. It’s November, and even though I’m not a participant in the NaNoWriMo, I still finished the fifth book of the series and continued the sixth one.
I’m very surprised, but then I shouldn’t be. I love writing this series and create these characters in each book and meet the existing ones again is such an adventure for me.
I hope very much you will meet some of them soon.
At this point, I do feel a bit worried about my editor being ‘overflowed’ with my manuscripts. And I have to type in two more novellas as quickly as possible.
This post is focused on a very important, if not the most important, aspect of your writers, your characters. Readers become invested in characters. They learn to love and/or hate characters. They sympathize and/or empathize with their flaws, quirks and events that shape them. Character development is both essential and difficult.
In this post, I hope to pull together some useful tips that I have tried to follow in my own writing or have learned from those that are respected and successful in the craft.
Be consistent with what you call your characters – If you’re character’s name is John Doe, stick with calling him John or Mr. Doe or Johnny. But don’t alternate or you will confuse your readers. I actually broke this rule in my first book, Frankly Speaking, and in it’s subsequent related books, I have a character named Clifford Jones, III. He is an attorney…
Portraying strong women authentically is tricky. Most of the time, I find strong female characters are caricatures of an extreme: the dim-witted blond, the stock-in-trade man with boobs, the femme fatale. These are stereotypes sure, but what they really are is extreme examples of real life. Can you find an example from history of a female warrior in a male-dominated society – sure, but she’s an outlier. If you want to write an outlier character that’s fine, but let the traits that make her an outlier be the source of her strength not her ability to wield a sword.
Let’s look at a real-world example, Malala Yousafzai. She’s a strong woman, but is she strong because she survived a bullet wound to the head? Yes, partly, but moreso she’s strong because of the choices that led to her being targeted, and the friends and family who empowered her to follow her heart.
Are you able to portray women without these extremes that’s both likable (or at least worthy of cheering for) and surprises readers? That’s the tricky part.
It’s back to school for everyone – not just kids. Vacation’s over. Fun’s over…or maybe the fun is just beginning.
This fall, W.A.N.A. is back with new classes, new instructors, and lots of exciting announcements coming up. Bookmark W.A.N.A. and make sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up-to-date with all the news!
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