I Remember All of Them: Piecing Together Your Character's Memories

As a brainwashed supersoldier, memories are kind of a big thing for me. I mean, they're the biggest thing for me... considering I don't have a lot of them.

As I try to remember what my life was like before becoming the Winter Soldier, it's occurred to me that my quest for memories can translate to writing, too--particularly character development.

In order for characters to become fully-fledged people, it's important to give them all the things that people tend to have in reality. Characters need an origin story, a personality, a manner of speaking, a fatal flaw, etc. One thing I personally forget to give my characters is MEMORIES. (Though that's probably because I'm still trying to find mine).

Even though it's something that isn't often considered, characters do have memories (unless they're like me). They have good memories, they have bad memories. Every memory comes together to form a complex patchwork of the character's history, what makes them who they are. And I bet their memories impact them a lot more than you'd think. Whether those memories are traumatic (I have a lot of experience with those) or happy (I have some experience with those), they can influence the character's decisions. The past affects us more than you might think (I have experience with that, too).

Sometimes there are bad memories. In my quest to remember, I've been watching movies. One in particular is The Lion King, which has an applicable quote: “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Is your character running from something? (I would know what that's like... I've been doing a lot of running.)

But then there's nostalgia--good memories can also a major component of your character's back story. Is your character running to something, trying to get their past back? Trying to recreate it? (I've been doing that too.)

There are so many possibilities. To develop your characters and move forward with your story, maybe you need to look back. Try figuring out...

Your character's best memories
Your character's worst memories
Your character's first memory
Your character's "defining moment"
Your character's most embarrassing memory
Your character's proudest memory

However you choose to piece together your character's memories, I hope it helps you figure out more about your characters. And I'll be with you every step of the way. Eventually, we'll be able to remember everything... together.

Signing off for now,

Live Your Dreams: Make A List

Do you have goals?

I'm sure you have dreams.  Everyone has dreams.  I dream of finally learning to dance.  I dream of having a real job.  I dream of using that real job to buy a mountain of cannolis and eating them all in one sitting.

Maybe eating cannolis could be my job.

At any rate, we have dreams.  But dreams are lofty.  They're out of reach.  I can imagine a mountain of cannolis, but I can't have them.  Yet.

That's the key word: yet.  It might be lofty, but there are a bunch of little things I can do to work up to that dream.  Those little things are your goals.

You know all this.  You're a productive member of society.  You have dreams that you'll achieve someday (I know you will!) and you know to keep working toward them.  So why am I writing this?

I have recently discovered a wonderful magic more powerful than any of my new friends.  It's called writing stuff down.

If you get it down on paper, you can start fixing it.  Everyone says that about first drafts.  If the story just stays up in your head, it never goes anywhere.  Not all goals are the same way, but in general... yeah, goals are the same way.

If my life was a musical, my monologue song would be "I wanted to do that but I forgot!" with a carefree yet disappointed melody.  I've thought up moves to try with Barton, technology things to ask Tony, and workout tips for Thor.  (The man skips leg day ritually.)  I can remember thinking all of these things-- but I can't recall what I actually thought up.

I started writing my goals down a couple weeks ago, and it's changed the way I work.  I look up, see that list, and decide on something to tackle.  I immediately can see how much work I'll have to do today, or this week, or this month.  I still forget stuff, but when I remember I add it to the list.

But remembering stuff?  That's small potatoes.  Consider this: each time you make a list of goals, you reevaluate.

We need to constantly reevaluate to live.  I'm not the same person I was last year-- I'm definitely not the same person I was ten years ago.  (My body temperature is much higher now.)  If I want to grow, I need to keep figuring out where I am in each journey I've begun.  Creating a goal list forces you to do that.  It forces you to figure out a timeline for getting stuff done.  This, to me, is the most valuable thing I've learned from goal setting.

So what kinds of goals am I talking about?  I've got a million of them— how do we break up that giant list into smaller and smaller bites?

Long Distance Goals

Long distance goals are the building blocks for your dreams.  Dreams are still lofty and unreachable-- long distance goals are large steps along the way.  You can't accomplish them in one fell swoop, but you can certainly chip away at them.  These are things you want to accomplish by the time 3 to 6 months pass.

For me, this involves querying a novel, writing a couple of blog posts, and some miscellaneous workout goals that line up with my current level of fitness.  It isn't anything too crazy-- it's achievable in that time period-- but it will take some effort.

Be careful with these goals, though.  While they're easy to write down, they can become frustrating if you don't see yourself making progress.  Don't be afraid to change them.  Our goals change over time as we change.  These should be easy to write down, but also easy to change if need be.

Middle Distance Goals

These are closer to the here-and-now, but they're still complex problems.  They still require a couple steps to complete.  These are goals that build toward your long distance goals, achievable over a week or two.

Every day this week, I want to do X.  I put these goals up there.  Things that might happen a couple days from now, I put here too.  But also, things that I could do any time, but need to get done this week.  For instance, writing this post.  I knew I wanted to do it by the end of the week, and now I'm doing it at the start of the week.  I'm happy with that.

Short Distance Goals

Finally, the urgent goals.  These are things that need to be done today, or you'd like to get done today.  They're generally one-step tasks-- easy to write down, easy to check off.  If it's something you'd like to do, however, it could end up being pushed to the next day.  That's just how life is.

Today, I needed to write this blog post, work out, and actually write out this week's goals.  I've managed to do most of that already, so I'm ahead of schedule.

Lots of goals, lots of productivity.  I hope this has helped you a little bit-- it's not the standard writing advice, but I promise it'll help.  Write down your goals.  Get a clearer view of what you need to do.  Above all, reevaluate your position in the world.  That's how we grow.

Live awesomely.


I Wish to Understand Them

Hello. I, Vision, have some thoughts for you on Character Development.

When you begin a new story, one of the most important things is to develop is your characters. If you do not have good characters, if no one cares about them, then it doesn't matter what amazing adventures and antics you put them through. No one will want to keep reading.

You must get to know your characters. You must understand them so you know how they act and think.

But how do you get to know your characters when, perhaps, you've only just met them?

This is very simple, actually. You do this the same way that you do it when you meet a real person. You ask questions and talk to them. You learn more about them.

"Oh. You mean that I have to fill out those 100-question questionnaires..."

No, not at all.

What I mean to say is that yes, you can do that. But there are other ways to get what you need for the story. And honestly, these might be more enjoyable. (Unless you love filling out those questionnaires. Then please go ahead.)

But before we get into that, what do you actually need for successful character development?

My writing alter-ego recently had the pleasure of attending a writers' conference (Chapter One Con) and listening to author Francesca Zappia (she wrote Made You Up) speak on character development across genres. She said that no matter what genre, you need to know five things for your characters:

  1. Background-- Their history
  2. Skills-- What they can do and are good at doing
  3. Goals-- What do they want to do (things they have to do for the story and the kitten that has nothing to do with the plot)
  4. Motivation-- What keeps them going
  5. Appearance-- What they look like, how they dress (and why they dress like that), facial expressions

Learning these things can last throughout the entire time you're writing and maybe even after all things are written. Don't panic if you don't know absolutely every detail about your characters' lives. You do not need to know every little detail.

So how do you find out what you do need to know?

You start by writing down what you already know. But keep in mind that this is not set in stone. If you write down that your main character's favorite food is pizza but then find out later his favorite food is actually paprikash, because his Hungarian grandmother made it for him when he was a child, that is okay. And characters can have more than one favorite food.

So, you've written everything down and it's not much. Maybe you have almost nothing written down. That's alright. The next thing you do, is fill in some of those blanks with things you want to write. Go ahead and give that character blue eyes. Your character's blue eyes do not need to have a deeper meaning other than you wanted this character to have blue eyes. 

Done? Now, the extra fun. Become a fan of your own writing. 

(Suggestions with asterisks are suggestions Ms. Zappia made)

1. Write fan-fiction.* Put your characters in crazy scenarios. Put them in Narnia or Wonderland. Put them in a murder mystery. A coffee shop. Put them in a "well what if this happened instead of this?". The possibilities are endless and the goal is to find out how they react in these situations. And no one has to read this except you.

2. Draw your characters*. This may help you get a better idea of what your character looks like. Again, no one has to see this except you, so don't worry about your drawing skills. 

3. Put your characters in the Hunger Games. This is a good one to do if you don't know their personalities yet, because THG is dependent on skills and how well a character can fight. Rank your characters from "dead meat" to "victor". And don't worry if your main character is "dead meat"; that just tells you more about them. 

You could also try to figure out which, if any, of your characters could lift Thor's hammer.
4. Personality-based fun. What Pokemon does your character have*? What Hogwarts House are they sorted into*? (I've actually been doing that one for a while and I've discovered that if I don't know what House they'd be in, I don't know them well enough.) And you could do other quizzes online-- what fruit are they, what famous book, etc.  

The main thing to remember about your characters is that, to an extent, everything they do comes back to background. It all should make sense with your character's history, even if the traits are not direct causes of it.

The other thing to remember, like with all writing things, is to have fun. Your goal is to understand your characters. Get to know them. There are no rules and you do not have to do any or all of this before you put pen to paper. And no one has to see how you have developed your characters. This is for you.

With that, I close. 


Mind Control

Whether you are writing realism or speculative fiction of some sort, readers have to believe in the world you create. Your characters are their window into that world. We all want to see a bit of ourselves in others. It is your job to shape a character readers can relate to.

Mind reading is not so different from reading books. When I read a mind and see nothing human in it, nothing I can relate to, that scares me. Ultron was like that, when he used Dr. Cho’s cradle. When I read a book and cannot put myself in the heads of the characters because there is nothing I can relate to, I probably will not finish that book.

So how do you read minds if you have not undergone experiments with a magical scepter?

My powers need to be exercised so that I can learn best how to control them. For people who are not “Enhanced,” I would say you should exercise empathy. There is a difference between saying, “I understand,” and feeling the same thing as someone else. Empathy is not just listening, it is a deliberate attempt to feel what someone else feels.

The best way to exercise your empathy is to talk to people. Talk, and listen. When a loved one tells you something sad, do not immediately say “it will get better.” Take a moment to sit with them in that sadness. Only by feeling what they feel can you understand and truly comfort them.

Likewise, only by understanding emotions well enough to empathize can you write believable, compelling characters.

It is a unique struggle for some people. Take the Vision, for example. Jarvis did not have access to human emotions, or the capacity for empathy. He had only programming. When the Vision was created, he gained *access* to human emotion, but not exactly the capacity for it. It is something we all have to learn, I think. He was young enough to comprehend the passions and fears that drive humans, but not quite experienced enough to feel them yet.

Now, he does his best to talk to us. He studies people, how they work and why they do what they do. As any good writer should also do, if they wish to write characters readers will love.

Thankfully, we are not all synthetic humans like Vision. We sometimes have to be reminded to step out of our own problems long enough to feel someone else’s, but we are very capable of doing so.

Your assignment is to practice this. Make empathy an intentional act. Gain control over when and how you use it. You understand the building blocks of a person when you comprehend their emotions. What drives your characters? Do they feel pain, or fear? Make them as human and fallible as the rest of us.

Eventually you will have control over minds in your own way, making readers feel what you want them to feel. It is a big responsibility, having that kind of power. Thankfully, writers can’t abuse the power of empathy the same way that I can abuse my magic. Don’t hold yourself back.
~Scarlet Witch

Announcing Things That Are Fun

Hello, readers.

For my first post here on the blog, I, Vision, have a couple of announcements that I hope you will enjoy.

Falcon gif xD ||| Avengers: Age of Ultron
This looks joyful, yes? 

The first announcement:

The YAvengers now have a Pinterest.


It is still new, so there is not much there and I'm having a bit of trouble uploading a picture, but we do hope you follow our boards. We will be saving writing advice, our blog posts, helpful blog posts from other writers, writing prompts, and things about the Avengers that we find humorous.

For example, I find this rather humorous.

The other announcement is that on Friday, August 26th, from 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM, Eastern Daylight Time, we will be having a chat on Twitter. We will be discussing character development. I will be hosting the chat and perhaps we will have other Avengers making appearances and giving their input. I'm sure we can all get together and have a nice conversation about characters with no arguing... *cough*

hair New Style check on http://photo-sharpen.com:

Anyway. Make a note on your calendars. We do hope you can join us.


Meet the Team!

Greetings, all.  I, Cap, along with the rest of the YAvengers, would like to introduce a few new members.

The search was tough.  The contestants were all well-qualified and enthusiastic.  Any on the list would have made a good addition to the team.  Unfortunately, we didn't have room for them all, but we got what we needed.

I can't wait for them to get started.

It's my genuine pleasure to introduce the newest members of our team: Bucky Barnes, Scott Lang, Vision, Spider-Man, and Scarlet Witch!  Please read their bios below and give them a warm welcome.


My name is Bucky Barnes, though I’m still trying to figure out who exactly that is. I used to be a guy from Brooklyn, but things took a turn for the worse. After a long stint as an assassin, I’m back in the 21st century, hoping to make things right. I’m doing so with the help of Sky Destrian, a writer of many genres with too many ideas and an unhealthy obsession with superheroes (it’s kind of creepy). You can find her at her blog and Twitter. If she’s not there, she’s probably binge-reading YA books, brushing up on her knowledge of Alexander Hamilton, or trying haphazardly to save the world.
 P.S. - Please don’t tell Steve I’m out of cryo.
Hey. I'm Scott Lang. I'm more commonly known as Ant-Man, though I didn't pick the name. Since I became an Avenger, I've had to go undercover, and these days, you can find me writing all sorts of sarcasm-filled novels, most often fantasy and science fiction.
My other persona is a teenage girl who writes under the pen name of Charlotte Aday. She enjoys planning (fictional) heists, watching far too much Star Trek, and asking vaguely philosophical questions, along with venturing into the brand-new world of blogging.
I am Vision. I am an android. I can use Thor's hammer. I have powers I don't entirely understand but I am learning about them. Writing is one of those powers.
My writer form is Katie Nichols, who is a much better cook than I am but still very ready suggest ordering a pizza.  When not writing, she enjoys Disney movies, novels by Maggie Stiefvater or Brandon Sanderson, and playing Minecraft. She also has a blog and Twitter.
I am Wanda Maximoff, the one they call Scarlet Witch. My brother and I survived Hydra’s experiments because we had each other. Now he’s gone, and I have to find a way to keep going. Sometimes the weight of responsibility that comes with my powers is too much. But I do what I can.
When I am not helping the Avengers I write YA as Anna Imber. I use my mind reading powers to understand empathy and write better characters. I am fascinated by what makes and unmakes a person, so I push my characters to their utmost limits to see what hidden powers they hold. You can follow my writing persona on her blog.
Spider-Man and the person behind the mask will introduce themselves at a later time.


With these new additions to the team, we hope to shoot many more writing posts, Twitter chats, and other fun things your way.  I hope you're as excited as I am.

~Cap and the YAvengers team