IWSG – 03/01/17

There’s a lovely group of people who listen to my woes and comfort me every month, and this month I have the honor of giving back by co-hosting the lovely Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you don’t know about this group or are relatively new, here’s how it works:

  1. Click on the picture
  2. Sign up
  3. Post a post every first Wednesday about your struggles as a writer, your triumphs as an author, and any encouragement you have to give others. (prompts are provided, most times.)
  4. Go and read about other’s struggles and comment with support!

When I was fourteen years old, I had a dream. To this day the only thing I can remember about the dream was that there was a sorcerer and a swordsman, and the swordsman ran the sorcerer through with his sword. He caught the dying sorcerer, and the sorcerer said to him, “You never could save me.”

That’s how two of the main characters of the Kurylian Saga were born. Others came afterward, but Yumil and Dirk were the ones who stuck around the most. I drew comics of them, I wrote short stories to myself. I even considered making a full-blown manga out of their adventure.

In the end, I settled on a book, and with the encouragement of my then-boyfriend, in 2013, I wrote the first draft of the Kurylian saga. The characters were wonky, the settings were forgettable, and the action was… well… inactive. I met my mentor, Chris Votey, and began work on the second draft. And then the third. And then I put it away for almost a full year, while I was homeless and running around my town trying to get my feet back under me.

Most recently, I’ve been struggling with a feeling of dejection. That the story I was telling was either not good enough, or that I, as a writer, didn’t have the skill to tell it. I absolutely drove myself mad over it to the point where I considered whether or not to scrap the book entirely and just move on.

I tried to do just that. I opened rough draft after rough draft. I tried different genres. I tried everything. But I always came back to Dirk and Yumil. The two of them needed their story told, and my fourteen-year-old-self was still in love with the way their world worked.

So I went to Chris and I asked him for help. As always, he gave me lovely lessons on world building, and how to use what I was learning in college in my writing. Then he set me the challenge of writing short fiction. Just real quick 500-750 word drabbles centered around one of the other characters in the story named Eamon.

Doing this unlocked something in me, and I found myself starting to get excited about the book again.

However, those doubts started niggling again. I couldn’t possibly be writing this right. I was obviously doing something wrong. Why was Eamon acting this way, when I had thought she was a more simple character?!

Chris came to me again and offered me the chance to analyze Dirk and Eamon, to see how they really ticked. I jumped on it, thinking that, as always, Chris must have some kind of reasoning behind it. And to be honest, I’m not the greatest at Character Profiling. Or world building. Or prose. Or, well you get the drift.

The first thing we did was sit down over voice chat, and he started asking me questions. I was instructed to answer the question three times. Once for Dirk, Once for Eamon, and Once for myself. I recognized the questions as being similar to an MBTI test I took and abandoned halfway through a long time ago.

For those who don’t know, MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is a psychological profiling system. It’s become very fashionable lately to know what your MBTI is on Tumblr, so I’ve kind of been rolling my eyes at it as any kind of diagnostic tool. However, Chris is on the verge of something wonderful, so I went along with it.

Going through the questions made me think about things I’d never considered before. Was Eamon organized? Did Dirk like being in the center of crowds? Did either of them enjoy spending time outdoors or indoors more? The questions were thorough and difficult to answer.

Over the course of the questions, however, the two of them started to form more solidly in my head. These were real people I was talking about suddenly. Not characters in my mind, but people I knew more intimately (apparently) than I knew myself!

It got me to thinking, however, about the characters and how they were and what they were doing. I started asking myself questions about my other characters, like Yumil and Jorgan and Anelace. Were any of them wallflowers? Did any of them answer emails promptly? It made me feel more connected to the story, which suddenly made me want to write more on this behemoth that had already taken up four years of my life.

And then, a few days later, Chris said he had the results. And when we went over them, something amazing happened. It was more than just a confirmation of who the characters were. It was like Chris was reading to me a manual on the characters that I had dreamt up, loved, and written for years. They came alive on the paper, and their actions suddenly made SENSE.

Dirk adopted Jorgan because his emotions thrive on love and care, and children are love and care incarnate. Eamon feels pressure to be like her father because it’s difficult for her to be original because of her personality. Everything made sense. I wasn’t crazy. These characters really were like real live people.

More than anything, by getting to know these characters, by learning how they think, how they feel, and what their rich inner lives were like, I knew that I was doing the right thing. That I was the writer to tell their story. After all, if I could make a complex character that fit into a personality profile used by psychiatrists, how could I possibly be doing my story injustice? I hadn’t known that these profiles existed when I made Dirk. So I wasn’t copying.

I had known Chris was doing research on personality typing for character creation, and he had mentioned MBTI types as well as astrology. Now I couldn’t help but wonder if his research for that project was what he used to help me. He confirmed it, of course, when I asked him. I felt so privileged that he would share such a thing with me.

I was so giddy with elation I rushed out of our voice chat, leaving poor Chris behind,  just to write all of this down. So let me tell you, fellow writers. If you are lacking motivation, or if you feel like you aren’t good enough… Sit down with your characters. Get to know them. Learn their inner lives. Do these things, and you’ll find that you ARE a writer, you are a good one, and you can do this.

After all, they chose you to tell their story.

So get out there, and tell it.

By the way, the test Chris recommended I use to find out the other characters MBTI profiles is right HERE, so feel free to use it! I also recommend THIS WEBSITE for getting to know each MBTI type.

As an aside, next month I will be joining the Blogging A to Z Challenge, co-hosted by IWSG’s Alex Cavenaugh! Follow me now for awesome articles every day in april!

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55 comments to IWSG – 03/01/17

  • miladyronel  says:

    It’s a great feeling – if a little unnerving – when the outfits you’ve been pinning on a new board on Pinterest turned out to be for one of your characters and not for you… It’s almost like they’re right there helping to choose what they’ll be wearing in the next book 🙂 And yes: they chose me to write their story, so write it I will.
    Happy writing.

  • Gail Baugniet (@GailMBaugniet)  says:

    Your characters became family to you! How terrific to take a dream and build it into a world as you continually grow as a writer. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG for March. Your excitement is infectious.

  • nancygideon  says:

    LOL, Nicohle! My characters didn’t need a rewrite, they needed a psychologist! That puts getting to know you on a whole new level. Isn’t it a great feeling when they really ‘come alive’ on paper? Thanks for co-hosting today and sharing your process.

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      You’re quite welcome, and I’m glad I could help out!

      As for process, I plan on doing a post later on about my actual process which involves a lot of talking, actually! So look forward to it!

  • Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor  says:

    I think MBTI is a great instrument for getting insights about yourself and others. I used to use it quite a bit when I worked in an HR job back in my corporate days. It’s neat to see how it’s also used by writers.

  • Sandra Ulbrich Almazan  says:

    It’s a great feeling to have your characters come to life!

  • Alex J. Cavanaugh  says:

    That’s awesome the test brought the characters to life for it. That was all you needed.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

  • Angela Wooldridge  says:

    Love this post, and the imagery of your original dream is incredibly strong. I do hope you carry on with this, I’d love to know how it all turns out. (And thanks for the test links – I confess, I’m a bit curious to try it on my characters – and me too)

    • Angela Wooldridge  says:

      Oh yeah – INFP, got me nailed!

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      You’re quite welcome for the links! And to be honest, the story has changed quite a bit from the original, so I’m hoping it will still be something you’re interested in when it all completes itself!

  • Christine Rains (@CRainsWriter)  says:

    I do love delving deep into characters’ minds. Those tests are so much fun and eye-opening. Thank you for co-hosting today. 🙂

  • Yolanda Renee  says:

    I remember those tests from college, such fun!
    Great idea for character building!

    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG! Checking out those websites. Thanks!

  • Megan Morgan  says:

    I had never thought about doing that with my characters before, what a great idea! I just might have to give it a try.

  • Dean K Miller  says:

    That’s an interesting tale of your story, and pretty cool too. I’ll have to check out the MBTI link. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      It’s no trouble at all, and I’m glad the links helped out! Thanks!

  • Crystal Collier  says:

    There’s definitely something so amazing about really delving into our stories/story worlds. Truthfully, I think this is where it starts for most people–characters. People either read for plot or character, but mostly for character. Each one has to be an individual, even the periphery ones.

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      You are absolutely right. I often find when I’m reading that if I don’t like the characters I just won’t continue a book. So Thank you for your comment, and I really hope to see some good things from you too!

  • Arlee Bird  says:

    Dreams have inspired most of the stories I’ve written. The process can be deceiving though if one is not careful. I like that idea of the character profiling. I’ve taken that Meyers-Briggs test for myself a number of times and I think it works pretty well. Never thought of using the test for helping to develop fictional characters. Interesting idea.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  • patgarcia  says:

    All the best with A to Z and thank you so much for co-hosting this month.
    Shalom aleichem,

  • Madeline Mora-Summonte  says:

    If the characters won’t leave you alone? That means something. Good for you for not giving up!

  • Tamara Narayan  says:

    Glad things finally got clicking for you. The personality test for characters is a great idea.

  • Cherie Colyer  says:

    Glad you found new excitement and belief in yourself as a writer and in your story. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jacqui Murray  says:

    What a great story. That tenacity–you must incorporate it into your characters. Most of us would have given up. Several times!

  • Loni Townsend  says:

    I haven’t taken any personality tests for my character, though I have for myself (ISTJ here). But like your characters, mine have been with me forever, lingering in my mind with that lopsided smile. They say, “write my story” and you just can’t refuse, right?

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      You really can’t. And the worst part is when they start leaking into other stories, and all you can do is sit there and go, “I know, I know, I’m working on it.” I think yours might be more patient than mine though.

  • Juneta  says:

    I’ve used the MBTI for years and astrology for profiling my characters. It can be found when have an idea of what kind of person I want a character to be then figure which type that is and research all again aimed at that time reading everything I can find and making notes.

    Started with my Star War RPG characters in 2000 and I never stopped using it for that. I found astrology elements can also give internal and outer conflict for the characters more specific in some ways than MBTI.

    I am a INFP. I also love the Color Code for core motivation personality typing that is inherent in all humans. My main core color is BLUE. Unlike MBTI the Color Code is aim at deep core motivation that influences all your actions in a subconscious way. You are born with a certain driving element in your life that shapes how you function and interact in the world.

    Love personality typing is a subject I have a passion for.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      I’d never heard of Color Code before, so I’m glad you gave me a link! I’ll have to check it out at a later date! Thank you so much for stopping by, and you and I may have to do a collaberation on how Role Playing can make you a better writer!

  • Misha  says:

    I kind of do something like this when I feel stuck, but really, I just talk to them and write down their answers. 🙂

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      Misha, I completely love your idea, and I’m going to be stealing it. I never considered just having a conversation with them!

      But I do also recommend some real profiling. Try watching a show called “Elementary”. Trust me, it did numbers for how I write people, and I’m sure it will for you too!

  • Victoria Marie Lees  says:

    This is my first time here so I will connect with you online. Making our characters into real people with thoughts, emotions, and reasons for behaving as they do is the job of any writer. Thanks for sharing this personality test with your readers. And thanks for co-hosting IWSG’s question for March. All best to you.

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      Thank you for connecting! I really do appreciate it!

      And you are absolutely right that it’s our duty to connect with our characters and make them as real as can be. The readers won’t love them if we don’t!

      You’re quite welcome, and all the best to you as well!

  • Patricia Lynne (@plynne_writes)  says:

    I took the personality test and promptly forgot what it said I was. LOL Something introverted. Now I’m curious to try it with some of my character though. I bet that’d be a fun exercise.

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      I will warn you, it can get tedious at times, and it’s incredibly hard to stay in character. However, as Chris showed me, it’s also incredibly rewarding! I don’t doubt that I’ll be doing it for nearly every character I create from now on!

  • Louise (Fundy Blue)  says:

    What an interesting idea to use Myers-Briggs to deepen your understanding of your characters, Nicohle! I’m filing that away for future use. I did a comprehensive M-B assessment over thirty years ago, and it certainly gave me insight into myself and my fiancé. Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG today!

  • elsieamata  says:

    I love that you have such a fantastic mentor work with you. My rocks too and he has made a world of difference in my writing skills. I have that test bookmarked. Only not for my characters…for me. 🙂

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      Well it’s a wondeful tool for you too! I plan on profiling myself here sometime soon, when I have time.

      We should get our mentors together and have a mentor/mentee dance! lol

  • Toi Thomas  says:

    Thanks for co-hosting this month. You are so blessed. Your critique partner is amazing. I like the idea you express, “I was the writer to tell their story.” I’m always working to improve my writing, but I do feel that way about the characters I’ve created. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      Thank you as well for commenting and for being part of IWSG. I would like to make a minor clarification. Chris Votey isnt my critique partner. He’s my mentor, and has been for a good two or three years now. He’s an integral part in making myself a better writer. And I absolutely recommend him for anyone looking to learn.

  • Olga Godim  says:

    Yes, researching your characters could be a huge help. I do it too, not with any tests though but by thinking about them in different situations. Some of my imaginary situations end up as written stories or parts of novels. Some never do – there is no story there, just a character sketch, but they keep my characters alive for me.

  • ChemistKen  says:

    Glad you learned more about your characters. I think I’ll have to work my way through my entire story before I know mine.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month’s IWSG!

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      It was no trouble, really! Thank you for visiting!

      I wish you luck, man. I would never be able to get through my story if I didn’t know my characters more before hand.

  • Lee  says:

    Thanks for the links – I love these kinds of tools for fleshing out characters. Like you, I need to know something about the psyche of my main characters to make any sense out of the story. So glad you just keep hammering at it!

    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

  • Donna L Hole  says:

    It seems those characters have really helped teach you writing techniques. I have some characters that I constantly take out of the box and work out some story lines on them. Some day, their true story will fit into the book. In the mean time though, I just enjoy spending time getting to know them 🙂

    You have an awesome mentor. I’m jealous.

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      You do not have to be jealous! He’s looking for other pupils too, so you can contact him and see if you two work out as a mentor/mentee pair. I’ve never thought about working on just a character, and not adding a plot along with them, so I envy you that. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Elizabeth Seckman  says:

    I think that’s where my background in counseling and social work has come in handy with my characters- they’re always getting psychologically evaluated.

    Thanks for helping with the IWSG!

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      A good background to have! As I’m currently still in school, I’m taking psychology courses which help out some, but I think the sort of background you have would be a great one for figuring out character types. Also, it was no trouble, really! Thanks a ton for being part of it.

  • Liesbet  says:

    That is a very inspiring story! Sitting down with your characters over a cup of tea. I love it! 🙂 I assume it could work for non-fiction as well? As of now, I am trying to sit down with myself and be a part of my past life again, instead of looking down on it from above. To be connected with my younger self will make the story come to life more, I think. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      It absolutely would work for non-fiction! You’d have to ask Chris Votey (www.writing.chrisvotey.com) but he mentioned something about “shadow selves” that represented how a person grows from about age eight on upwards, which I think would help you out. I’m not entirely sure of the name of them, or I’d tell you, but he knows a lot about them already. I’d shoot him an email, if you were so inclined.

  • Cynthia  says:

    It sounds like you did a lot of homework to develop your characters.

    I’ve had dreams that have inspired details in my work too.

  • Diane Weidenbenner  says:

    Found you through the IWSG and I too will be doing the A to Z Challenge. I took the Myers Briggs test a long time ago but I don’t think much has changed. I’ve never thought of my characters in that way but it’s an interesting idea. Enjoy your week! http://www.dianeweidenbenner.com

  • Stephen Tremp  says:

    I can relate to characters becoming family. I worked with a trilogy for years. They do become almost real. If I hear them talking in my head I know it’s time to take a break from writing.

    Stephen Tremp

  • Michelle Wallace  says:

    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month!
    A mentor? What a great idea and Chris sounds like a fantastic mentor! 🙂

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      He really is! He’s the best sort of mentor. He takes some getting used to, but all teachers do. I can’t imagine anyone else being my mentor.

      You should check out his site, he’s got great worldbuilding articles and numerous treatises on writing!

  • Deb Hawkins  says:

    It never dawned on me to use MBTI for my characters. Man, I can’t imagine the answers I would get!!

    Thank you for co-hosting!

    • Nicohle Christopherson  says:

      You’d get some amazing ones, I bet! You should absolutley give it a try!

      Any time! Thank you for dropping by!

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