Posted on 1 Comment

CC101 – Final Link Roundup

A huge thank you to everyone who participated this weekend!  I hope it proved fun and useful!  If I’m missing anyone, please let me know.

Day 3

Soleil’s Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

My Game of Chance and I Ching

Kait’s Structured Character Interviews

Bethanie’s Favorite Characters:  Neil MeqVren and Characters by Collison

JA Howe’s Human vs. Non-Human vs. Alien, Stock Characters, Death to Smoochy

Jessica’s Holding Out For a Hero

Jenna’s Using the Tarot to Create Characters

Day 2

Soleil’s Aires

Soleil’s Taurus

My Lost in the Trees

Kait’s Semi-Structured Interviews

Molly’s What Makes a Good Character?

Jess’s Setting FIres for Fun and Profit

JA Howe’s Molded Not in My Image

Bethanie’s Favorite Characters:  Miphon, Morgan Hearst, and Elkor Alish

Bethanie’s Favorite Characters:  The Darkyn

Day 1

My Static Trait:  The Little Things

Kait Nolan’s Unstructured Character Interviews

Bethanie’s Favorite Character: Gregar (what an honor for my character to make her list!)

Soleil’s What’s Your Sign?

Jessica Tudor’s The Arsonist and the Firefighter

Posted on 4 Comments

CC101 – I Ching

This entry will be part two of “The Game of Chance” exploration of character.

I Ching, the “Book of Changes”

The Book of Changes is one of the oldest Chinese texts.  It explores the journey of human experience.  By examining where you are in the journey, you can refer to the text and gain insight into why you’re in this spot, how you may get out, and what may lie ahead.  In that respect, it can be a sort of divination tool.

I stumbled onto I Ching when I began researching my hero for Seven Crows.  His culture is loosely Chinese, and since I was researching various dynasties around the Chinese New Year, an innocent e-mail offer for a free “I Ching Reading” piqued my interest.  I ended up becoming so fascinated that I bought The Complete I Ching so I could make this the hero’s static trait.

When the idea for this Character Clinic came, I wasn’t sure if I could write up something about I Ching or not.  I mean, I only found and used it for a specific Chinese hero in a new story.  I wasn’t sure if I’d ever use it for any other story or character.  But I decided to do a trial run this afternoon for this entry.  Let’s see what you think.

I’m far from an expert on I Ching, but this is how I’ve been using it.

I have three coins, gold Sacajawea dollars I borrowed from the monsters.  To get a reading, toss the three coins SIX times and count the number of heads and tails.  There are four possible outcomes for each toss:

  • three heads (Greater Yin, broken, changing line)
  • two heads and one tail (Lesser Yang, an unbroken line)
  • one head and two tails (Lesser Yin, a broken line)
  • three tails (Greater Yang, unbroken, changing line)

For each toss, draw the corresponding line (either whole or broken) from bottom to top.  You should end up with six lines.  Three bottom and three top lines are grouped together to form one of eight “trigrams.”  Each trigram has a name, like Mountain, Heaven, etc.  The back of my book has a reference table rather like a multiplication table, where I can look up the bottom and top trigram to get the intersection “hexagram,” which is a number from 1 – 64.  Once I have my number, I look it up in the book and read what the original text says, as well as the translation and extra details.  Each reference book will give different insight to the symbol and what it might mean.  I really like my book because it contains details about the Chinese symbol and name, as well as commentary from Confucius, King Wen, and The Duke of Zhou’s interpretations.  Bits of history are thrown in to “show” how they came to these interpretations, which I find fascinating.

Where I Ching can really give some cool insight is when you consider the “changing lines.”  These lines show where the symbol is “moving.”  Some tosses you might end up with multiple changing lines; others, you may not get any.  When I do get a changing line, it’s always interesting to read that symbol too  and gain insight into what might help with the journey facing the character.

Exercise:  I decided to try another “live blog” reading to show how I Ching might work.  I’ve already done this for my current new project using Story Archetype cards.  Since Jessica intrigued me with her “firefighter vs. arson” posts, I had FIRE on my mind.  Could I ever come up with a heroine arsonist and a hero firefighter (marshal, etc.) with a believable romance that still remained true to who they were? 

So thinking FIRE and letting my mind twist on those details, I threw the coins.  From top to bottom:

  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 3 tails (solid line, changing)
  • 2 heads, 1 tail (solid line)
  • 1 head, 2 tail (broken line)

This gives “Qian over Xun” or “Heaven over Wind” = 44, which my book translates as “Encountering.”

The background of the gua, or name “Gou, Encountering” is very interesting for my fire idea.  It means a couple, specifically a married couple, which implies a pairing or copulation.  The whole translation is based on the one “feminine” yin line at the bottom and how the rest of the “male” yang lines “chase” it.  The basic idea of the Gou (44) is “after separation, people meet again.”

Hmm, my brain immediately wonders.  Maybe the hero knew her in the past.  He knows exactly what kind of woman she is, that she’s an arsonist.  That puts the conflict and opposing world views first and foremost in the relationship.

The decision for this gua is particularly alarming for anyone attempting this kind of story:  Encountering.  The maiden is strong.  Do not engage in marrying such a woman.  The union cannot last very long.

Ha!  Maybe Jess is right, hmmm?

The actual Yao Text is almost poetic and sometimes gives interesting metaphors.  Each line has an interpretation, which may or may not give more ideas for the characterization or plot.  For 44, some words that caught my attention:  “misfortune appears — impetuous lean pig, pacing up and down.”  What the heck does that mean?  In the discussion that follows the translation:  “it is better to stop its growth at the beginning so its evil influence will not extend any further.”  Uh oh.  That doesn’t sound very good for our romance, does it.  This line is “unwilling to lag behind.  It is like a lean pig waiting to move forward.  One should be alert and take precautions, as in using a metal brake to stop a moving carriage.”

Line 5 is equally dubious.  “Willow twigs wrap the melon, Concealing brilliance.”  The text explains:  “one at this place has the brilliant quality of tolerating others’ opinions and behaviors, but still restrains the evil influence from spreading.  Melon represents the yin element at the bottom.  It is sweet, but it rots easily and creeps along the ground, denoting the insidious influence of evil.”

Er.  It’s not looking good for our romance.

The final line rings like the final nail in the coffin:  “Reaching the topmost; there is ground for regret,” which is explained as this line reaching the top and falling into an isolated position.  The only yin (female) element is at the bottom, which is too far for him to meet.  His pride keeps him from descending (or in our romance, we could say his sense of justice).  Although there is no reason for blame, there is regret.

Dang.  Sadder and sadder.  Maybe our firefighter and arsonist are doomed from the beginning. 

Let’s examine the changing line, which was line 3.  The text directs me to the gua “6 – Contention.”  Uh oh, still not looking good.  Flipping back to symbol 6, this gua is called “Song,” which means to dispute, demand justice, or bring a case to court because there is contention.  Again, it makes me think of the hero’s sense of justice.  This is definitely true to him and what we’d expect of a heroic firefighter.  He would be driven to stop any arsonist, even, or especially, the woman he loved.

The decision for this changing line is complicated.  When truth is blocked, we should be cautious.  Resolving the conflict at the midpoint is recommended.  If the conflict continues to the end, only one thing awaits.  Misfortune.  Dealing with the contention is supreme good fortune; obtaining distinction through contention is not worthy of respect.

Pretty interesting, yes?  And it looks rather grim for our firefighter and arsonist couple. 

Which if you know me, you know this only makes me want to write it all the more.

Posted on 16 Comments

Invitation: Character Clinic

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to host a “101 Ways to Love Your Characters” clinic here on the blog, beginning Friday, 2/13 thru Sunday, 2/15.  This invitation is open to anyone on the planet who has anything at all to say about characters.

If you’re a reader, I want to know about your all-time favorite characters and why you love them.

If you’re a writer, I want to know about all your tricks and techniques that help you create memorable characters.  My friend Jenna is going to blog about using tarot; my friend Soleil is going to use astrology; and I’m going to talk about a variety of things, like static traits and possibly what I’ve learned using I Ching. 

The clinics will be informal, chatty, and above all, fun!

I’ll post daily Clinic entries here, linking to everyone who’s participating to share the link love.  Simply e-mail me (see the About tab) or comment on any post and leave me your link to be included.  I’ll be giving away two prizes:  one to the posters; one to the commenters (on any participating blog entry, not just mine).  Posters may comment to gain more chances to win. 

Since Ann and Bethanie can attest to how much I suck at getting packages in the mail *mutters at self and eyes the box on the corner of my desk that I should have mailed last freaking year!!*, the rules are very simple.  Up for grabs:  two $20 prizes, winner’s choice

  • Amazon order (that qualifies for Amazon Prime or includes shipping) up to $20
  • any online book retailer $20 gift certificate (Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, Drollerie Press bookshop, etc.)

So make a note on your calendar and I hope to see you next weekend!

Posted on 5 Comments


By word count alone, I ended up negative today in NSR.  I wrote the next new section in Quinn’s POV — braving Melville to do so — and then axed the only section in Dr. Charles Merritt’s POV in the second major draft, which was longer.  I also did some shuffling around of character placement.  A character needed to die a bit earlier than I planned.  Good work, even if the word count doesn’t reflect it.

Then tonight my Amazon order arrived containing The Complete I Ching.  I’d bought this book as research for my hero in 7Crows, and whoa, it’s so interesting!  I’ve been trying to plot it out, but couldn’t seem to get the pieces to fall into the right order in my mind.  So I decided to play out a toss of the coins and see if I could get a plot.  I got so many good ideas, it was freaky.  I ended up plotting the whole thing tonight.

For example:  Tian’s, the hero’s, static trait is that he always consults the coins.  The first scene shows him doing this.  So naturally, in his darkest moment of betrayal, he checks the coins, and rightfully gets the hexagram 36 – Ming Yi – Brilliance Injured or Darkening of the Light.  I was getting ready to move on to the Masquerade, when one line from the description caught my eye:  “Hunting in the south, captured the great chief.”

Hmmm.  Interesting, I thought.  I ended up adding a scene where they do just that — capture the Queen’s right hand man. 

This static trait comes back in the first climax, where he distracts someone who knows him well by doing the casting again before “making a decision” when he’s really just buying time.  There, he casts 18 – Gu – Worm or Decay.  I just love the whole idea of it.

I’m sure I’ll need to do more tweaking, but the outline of plot is here.  I still need to think of one crucial item that ties Morghan’s father to the theme, and I need to spend a bit more time making sure her dark moment is appropriately hopeless.  Anyway, here is the first draft of the block outline for 7Crows.

Section Title POV
001 Tea with the Stars Morghan
002 Dragon Hid in the Deep Tian
003 At the Captain’s Table Morghan
004 Sage Advice Morghan
005 Promenade Tian
006 Winged Dance Morghan
007 Scaled Mask Tian
008 Fallen Crow Morghan
009 Lost Morghan
010 The Crow Queen Tian
011 Flying in Darkness Morghan
012 Trap is Sprung Morghan
013 Dragon Flying Low Tian
014 Black Feathers Morghan
015 Bedraggled Crow Tian
016 Wing to Wing Morghan
017 Suspicion on the Wing Morghan
018 Darkening Light Tian
019 The Queen’s Right Hand Morghan
020 Masquerade Tian
021 Tower of Crow Morghan
022 Consult the Oracle Tian
023 As the Crow Flies Morghan
024 Seven Crows Morghan


My typical section averages around 1K, so this will be right in line for the size requirements.  Assuming it doesn’t grow too much in draft…

Posted on 11 Comments

Characterization by I Ching

So you know I’ve been working on the SFR story tentatively called “Seven Crows.”  I’m hoping to make it my Feb. project, even though I’m pretty behind in Revision Xibalba.  I ended up drawing heavily on ancient Chinese history for the hero’s inspiration, which I hadn’t planned.  One thing led to another, and there I was reading through different dynasties.

Then the Chinese New Year came.  I got an innocent little advert from offering a free I Ching reading to celebrate the Year of the Ox.  Amused, I checked it out.  (I enjoy reading my “horror-scopes” because they’re never true.  I blame it on the cutoff between Taurus and Gemini.  5/21 is right on the line, and some Gemini elements fit, while others don’t at all, but Taurus isn’t right either.) 

Something started nagging in the corner of my mind.  Is this something I can use for the hero?

Turns out, yes.  I did a little research into I Ching (Google is my friend).  One of the 8 trigrams is “dragon”, which immediately caught my eye.  This is a shapeshifter story and you know how much I love dragons!  Then I looked up various hexagrams involving that symbol.  I ended up being very surprised at how much of it seemed to fit with what I already knew about my character.  I even started to get more plot ideas.  The biggest thing:  I have his static trait now, and lots of ideas of how it will affect plot and deepen his character.

Then I had to decide what symbol to use for the heroine.  Now she’s not based on the same culture, but I wanted to see what HE would think, looking at her and trying to discover her personality.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a symbol involving “crow.”  *snort*  But fire seemed to fit pretty well with my ideas for her (and its animal was the pheasant, which at least has wings), which lead me to another list of hexagrams to look up.  They’re not quite as clear to me, but I have a feeling they’ll be very useful when I’m in the hero’s POV trying to figure out what he knows, sees, hears, etc. from her.

Here’s another strangely cool inspiration that is now starting to make sense.  “Seven Crows” came from a crow augry poem, which was used to foretell the future based on the number of birds seen:

One crow sorrow,
Two crows mirth,
Three crows a wedding,
Four crows a birth,
Five crows silver,
Six crows gold
Seven crows a secret,
which must never be told.

How cool is that?  I never intended for astrology to play a part in this story at all!

Has anyone had luck using other forms of astrology to develop characters or plot?  I’ve used the Archetype Storytelling cards and personality tests before, but this is a first for astrology.