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Using Your Fiction Character’s Pride


Pride can be bad

Pride can be bad

Pride is a powerful emotion that motivates us to do evil or good.  Sometimes it motivates us to do both–Pride for an evil reason can stimulate us do something that benefits others.

Look at some examples.  Scientific American’s article on pride talks about Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, who did it to “to show up a girl who dumped him and the guys in Harvard‘s most elitist social club. The desire to prove he was smarter than them gave Zuckerberg the motivation he needed to start on a path toward becoming one of the world’s preeminent innovators.”

An evil desire to triumph over others that brings about a good end–Facebook.  (Good is arguable here, of course.)

What about in fiction?

Have we not seen the hand of pride behind many heroes and most villains?  Let’s take a look at some examples.

This is one of my favorite stories.

Here is a good passage from Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne.  The conversation is between Stuart and Mr. Fogg.  Note how pride motivates both men not to back down.

They are talking at a gentlemen’s club, while playing cards:

“I’d like to see you do it in eighty days.”

“It depends on you. Shall we go?”

“Heaven preserve me! But I would wager four thousand pounds that such a journey, made under these conditions, is impossible.”

Mr. Fogg, are you ready?

Mr. Fogg, are you ready?

“Quite possible, on the contrary,” returned Mr. Fogg.

“Well, make it, then!”

“The journey round the world in eighty days?”


“I should like nothing better.”


“At once. Only I warn you that I shall do it at your expense.”

“It’s absurd!” cried Stuart, who was beginning to be annoyed at the persistency of his friend. “Come, let’s go on with the game.”

“Deal over again, then,” said Phileas Fogg. “There’s a false deal.”

Stuart took up the pack with a feverish hand; then suddenly put them down again.

“Well, Mr. Fogg,” said he, “it shall be so: I will wager the four thousand on it.”

“Calm yourself, my dear Stuart,” said Fallentin. “It’s only a joke.”

“When I say I’ll wager,” returned Stuart, “I mean it.”

“All right,” said Mr. Fogg; and, turning to the others, he continued: “I have a deposit of twenty thousand at Baring’s which I will willingly risk upon it.”


This is a great example of pride in use.  Think about it.

Pride has motivated each of these men, and even caused Stuart to lose his cool.  And, each character’s pride has locked them into this result.  If either of these men changed their minds, what would they lose?

Their pride of course.

 This is another good example, from another great classic.

From the Hobbit (the book), this is one of my favorite scenes.  Let’s hope it is in the Hobbit movie as well.  The dragon’s pride drives him to prove to the hobbit, to which he has no need to prove himself, that he is, in fact, invulnerable.  His pride becomes his downfall when Bilbo sees the dragon’s weakness.

Bilbo’s is not immune, though.  His pride also goes to his head when he talks a little too much for his own good.

Let’s take a look:


Bilbo the Baggins

Bilbo Baggins by troubadour93

“I have always understood,” said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, “that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the-er-chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that.”

 The dragon stopped short in his boasting. “Your information is antiquated,” he snapped. “I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me.”

 “I might have guessed it,” said Bilbo. “Truly there can; nowhere be found the equal of Lord Smaug the Impenetrable. What magnificence to possess a waistcoat of fine diamonds!”

 “Yes, it is rare and wonderful, indeed,” said Smaug absurdly pleased. He did not know that the hobbit had already caught a glimpse of his peculiar under-covering on his previous visit, and was itching for a closer view for reasons of his own. The dragon rolled over. “Look!” he said. “What do you say to that?”

 “Dazzlingly marvellous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!” exclaimed Bilbo aloud, but what he thought inside was: “Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!”

 After he had seen that Mr. Baggins’ one idea was to get away. “Well, I really must not detain Your Magnificence any longer,” he said, “or keep you from much needed rest. Ponies take some catching, I believe, after a long start. And so do burglars,” he added as a parting shot, as he darted back and fled up the tunnel.

 It was an unfortunate remark, for the dragon spouted terrific flames after him, and fast though he sped up the slope, he had not gone nearly far enough to be comfortable before the ghastly head of Smaug was thrust against the opening behind. Luckily the whole head and jaws could not squeeze in, but the nostrils sent forth fire and vapour to pursue him, and he was nearly overcome, and stumbled blindly on in great pain and fear. He had been feeling rather pleased with the cleverness of his conversation with Smaug, but his mistake at the end shook him into better sense.

 “Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!” he said to himself, and it became a favourite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb. “You aren’t nearly through this adventure yet,” he added, and that was pretty true as well.

These are only two examples.

Bilbo running from Smaug

The price of pride

Look around.  You can see pride at work everywhere–in your life, house, job, and all over the TV.  And, of course, in fiction.

And why not?

Your characters will have pride, but it is how they handle it that shows their personality.  Are they cool like Mr. Fogg?  Or, are they full of fire like Stuart?  They might be a shy, meek person like Bilbo with hidden courage that brings out his pride.

Pride.  It has many forms.  Your characters have it.

Use their pride, and yours, well.

Oct 16, 2013 - great sites, novel writing    No Comments

Analyzing Emotions in Fiction with Software

Want to read a sad story?  A happy story?

Photo by Wyoming Jackrabbit

What do you want to read?

Maybe something that stimulates your imagination???

According to Discover Magazine, you can find it easily. 8ED5MK6C7T9E

A kind of software exists that parses the key words of the story and tells you the emotion in it.  It measure the “emotional temperature of a book.

So if you are in the mood for a creepy thriller, apparently, you can just punch it in and find one.

Good?  Bad?  I don’t know, but for the readers, I think it’s good.

And, for authors, it’s good also.  The more readers that find our books, the better it is.

For details, the entire study can be seen here.

The Hero’s Journey and Characters, How to use them

The Hero’s Journey and Characters

Most writers have heard of, or most probably, know about the Hero’s Journey.

If not, take a look here for a longer description.  However, this is basically the archetypical journey of a hero or heroine through a cycle of struggle, victory, and rebirth.

In its various forms, it is used in the majority of all stories.

Today, instead of looking at the plotting aspects of it, let’s see how to use it when making characters, in particular, secondary characters.

There are several characters that the hero encounters on his journey:



Threshold guardians




Women (or men perhaps) as temptress

Of course, there are others, but let’s look at these.  The simplest is the ally, which is often combined with the mentor.  For example, look at Gandalf.  He is a guide, mentor, and ally.  However, he only helps the hero in the beginning.  Later, the hero has to do things himself.Super Hero Cartoons Clip Art

You can use the ideas in different ways for your secondary characters.  You might have the mentor also be a threshold guardian.  The hero passes the threshold in which he is trained.

You might have the ally also be the temptress.  He or she would be helping, yet sometimes attempting to lure the hero from, the quest.

Like this, the hero’s journey can also appear in your characters.  Good luck with it.




Four ways to Make Interesting Characters


Boring Characters
Photo by MoonSoliel

George was tall and thin, with light brown hair.  He wore a white shirt and denim jeans, new

and unwrinkled.  He was going bald but still had strings of hair on his head.  As he spoke, he held a cigarette, heedless of the ashes he spread over my rug.


Do you want to read about boring characters?  Sorry, but old George here, is pretty bland.  How can we improve him?  Let’s look at a four ways to do that.

1.  Focus and detail.  This is not two ways.  You really need both.  For example, focus without detail is this:  He was tall and thin.   Detail without focus is even worse: He was tall, nearing seven feet, and thin with knobbly arms like a skeleton wrapped in tight flesh.  He was lanky and tall, like a man walking on stilts at a circus.”  Instead of this kind of thing, it is best to choose one or two details–the things that best define your character–and focus on those.  Something like this: He towered over me, nearing seven feet like a man on stilts.  Here, rather than just explain or describe show the character doing something as you describe her or him.  For example, look at this scene from Moby Dick where Ishmael first meets the harpooner:

The stranger entered the room, and without looking towards the bed, placed his candle a good way off from me on the floor in one corner, and then began working away at the knotted cords of the large bag I before spoke of as being in the room. I was all eagerness to see his face, but he kept it averted for some time while employed in unlacing the bag’s mouth. This accomplished, however, he turned round—when, good heavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was of a dark, purplish, yellow colour, here and there stuck over with large blackish looking squares. Yes, it’s just as I thought, he’s a terrible bedfellow; he’s been in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here he is, just from the surgeon. But at that moment he chanced to turn his face so towards the light, that I plainly saw they could not be sticking-plasters at all, those black squares on his cheeks. They were stains of some sort or other. At first I knew not what to make of this; but soon an inkling of the truth occurred to me. I remembered a story of a white man—a whaleman too—who, falling among the cannibals, had been tattooed by them. I concluded that this harpooneer, in the course of his distant voyages, must have met with a similar adventure. And what is it, thought I, after all! It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make of his unearthly complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying round about, and completely independent of the squares of tattooing. To be sure, it might be nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning; but I never heard of a hot sun’s tanning a white man into a purplish yellow one. However, I had never been in the South Seas; and perhaps the sun there produced these extraordinary effects upon the skin. Now, while all these ideas were passing through me like lightning, this harpooneer never noticed me at all. But, after some difficulty having opened his bag, he commenced fumbling in it, and presently pulled out a sort of tomahawk, and a seal-skin wallet with the hair on. Placing these on the old chest in the middle of the room, he then took the New Zealand head—a ghastly thing enough—and crammed it down into the bag. He now took off his hat—a new beaver hat—when I came nigh singing out with fresh surprise. There was no hair on his head—none to speak of at least—nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead. His bald purplish head now looked for all the world like a mildewed skull. Had not the stranger stood between me and the door, I would have bolted out of it quicker than ever I bolted a dinner.

2.  History:  Everyone has a history, and so must your characters.  Some details are probably not important, but you need to think out the history as it relates to the story.  I always write them out, but there are different ways to do this.  One is to write out a brief summary.  Another is to make a conversation of two other characters talking about the first (for some reason, this often teases out new information).  One thing that I found was that in some stories, my characters had met and struggled in the past, so that past needed to be written about in some detail, and from there, I got a better hold on my story and, of course, my characters.  This is a small piece of the history of Sauron, the villain in Lord of the Rings:File:1165596377sauron1.jpg

Sauron was originally known as Mairon the Admirable, a powerful Maia of Aulë the Smith, who was a Vala, creator of Dwarves. However, Mairon was soon corrupted by the Dark Lord Morgoth (“The Great Enemy” in the tongue of men) an evil Valar and Dark Enemy of Arda, and turned evil, taking the name, “Sauron.”

3.  Flavor:  All writers want to create memorable characters.  Think of the great characters in the stories you’ve read.  Wouldn’t you like to make characters like that?  One thing that most great characters have is flavor, by this I mean that your characters need to be unexpected.  For example, your cowboy sheriff should be mainly good and ethical.  However, he can also have some bad qualities to make him more human and this memorable.  Perhaps he is jealous of his brother.  Maybe he is a womanizer or a “man” izer.  He might be an excessive drinker, gambler, or simply extremely selfish.  Perhaps you could try something less cliche, such as he enjoys torturing small bugs, loves or hates children, has a deep dark secret, or something like that.  For example, this is Watson describing Sherlock Holmes.  Note how Doyle uses the contrast of cold logic and hot passion here to define not only Holmes, but also ‘the woman’ and also Watson:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

4.  Reputation:  This can be a really fun one, though often challenging.  You have seen it used above also.  The way other characters talk about someone is often one of the best ways to describe him to the reader.  The describer can also be characterized, an added bonus.  You can also use it to give information that is hard to get in elsewhere.  Look at how Conrad describes Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.  This is Marlowe the narrator (kind of) who tells of his conversation with the Company’s chief accountant:

“One day he remarked, without lifting his head, ‘In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.’ On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down his pen, ‘He is a very remarkable person.’ Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at ‘the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together. . . .’

There you have it.  Four ways to liven up your characters.  Sure, there are more, but these will get you started.  This will work for fiction, and with a little imagination, memoirs as well.  I have even seen it used in non-fiction like magazine articles.  Give them a try.

Beating Writer’s Block–three ways

Most writers hit a part of their story where their creative juices dry up, or they are unsure of how to go on.  Sometimes, it is just the fatigue of writing the story and living with the same characters for days, weeks, and months. Other times, you may not like the direction the story has gone.  You may be unsure as to what to do next in your story.

Hit a wall? (Photo by Eddie07)

And, you hit a wall.  That, my friend, is writer’s block.

To start, you need to figure out what your problem is, or rather where.  Where in the story are you being blocked?  Isolate and identify the part that is giving you writer’s block.

Here are 3 ways to break or surmount writer’s block:

1.  The first way is to muscle through the writer’s block.  Many writers, as well as myself, attempt to break through.  After all, it is a block, so let’s break it.  Why not?  Well, as Michael Banks says in Writer Magazine, “This brute-force approach rarely lends itself to writing.”  However, there is some things that you can do here, if you must keep going.

You should take a short break.  Get a cup of ocha or something.  Then in another file on the computer, write a summary of what you want to happen.  For example, you know that your main character has to escape from Mr. Dastard, but you are not sure how.  Write out a summary of the struggle, and think of something for the escape (anything is okay for now), and what you want to happen afterwards up to your next plot point.  You now have something.  If you must keep going, go ahead and write the parts after the escape.  If you do not need to keep going, put your writing aside, and go walk the dog.  After a little bit of time, you will start coming up with alternatives to the escape that you just wrote.  Simply having something will tease your mind into coming up with a better something.  Then, go back to your file and rewrite it.

2.  Another way is to skip the section that is giving you writer’s block entirely.  If we use the same example, you would write XXX  in the escape section of your character’s story, and just keep going.  Also from Michael Banks, quoting the great Jerry Pournelle:

Write what you know. “Get as much as you can on paper as fast as you can,” Pournelle says. “Skip ahead and write the parts you already know how to write. You can go back later and fill in the rest.” As you jump ahead, write notes to yourself about what you intend to write-or just leave a place marker, like “XXXXX.”

This way works also with 1, if you leave a note instead of XXXX.  Something like, “escape scenes go here.”

3.  The third way is somewhat similar to number 1.  To beat writer’s

Photo by Skinnyde

block, think.  Take a few moments and look out the window.

Many times, we start a story with one end in mind, or perhaps no actual ending visualized.  As time goes on, we get so deep into the narrative that we lose our way, or our characters do.  Maybe we have gone off the course we originally intended into the jungle of plot threads.  We cannot see how to get from here to the ending we had planned (hopefully) or we have no ending planned and no idea how to end the story.  In such cases, some moments, or even hours, of quiet reflection can give you the time you need to pull it all together or perhaps to find the missing piece.

There are other ways to beat writer’s block, but these are the three that I’ve found most useful.  Give them a try.

Have any good ideas to beat writer’s block?  Leave me a message.